Monday, March 2, 2009

spring comes for an early visit

As I'm sure many of you have heard, tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma on February 10. The storm was a bit out of season and completely unexpected, at least by me.

I had driven to my parent's house after dropping the little guy off at school. Middle son was feeling ill, and at 15, I thought, old enough to stay home alone with his cold and the animals.

My mother was injured this past Saturday (another story all to itself, which I promise to tell in the next day or so). I was driving the two hours up the turnpike to give Daddy some much-needed time for farm chores and wash Mama's hair. When I arrived, her injuries had worsened somewhat, so we decided instead to have lunch then drive to the doctor's office.

The appointment was scheduled for 1:30 pm at an office no more than five miles away. At 1 pm, I started getting mother ready and pulled my car up to the porch of their house. After much whining and maneuvering (and that was just me), we got her into the car. At the doctor's office, I went inside for a wheelchair even though Mama thought she could walk. When I came back to the car, she was sitting with her legs on the ground and said, "Maybe I could use that wheelchair after all." The doctor took a look at her, gave her a prescription and we made our slow way back out to the car. After returning the wheelchair, I drove down the road, filled the prescription and took Mama home. I commented on our good luck with the weather. It was a beautiful day with cotton ball clouds in a clear blue sky. We reversed the exit manuevers and got her into her recliner. Then I noticed the light on my cell phone (which I'd left on the coffee table) was flashing. I'd missed several calls from my husband.

A tornadic storm was ripping through Oklahoma City not far from where he works. The storm was moving quickly and violently in a northeasterly direction. On its current course, it would be no more than a few miles from our home and the little guy's school. At the time, my husband didn't tell me he had watched a funnel cloud flatten an apartment complex about a mile and a half away from his office building. Thank the Lord for small miracles.

Immediately, I called middle son's cell phone. He had dropped it from the top of a friend's back yard shed two days before and I had yet to replace it. It rang but he didn't answer. Turns out, he couldn't; we thought just the screen was busted but the entire phone was worthless except for the incessant ringing. Unbeknownst to me our power was cycling on and off. In between cycles, I got a call from him. After telling him where to find the corded phone, we lost our connection mid-sentence. Five minutes later, another call from him came. He had found the phone, plugged it in the laundry room jack, gathered the dogs and the cats, a bag of Milky Way bars, and his ipod, and shut himself into the laundry room. About then, the power went out, this time for good. I stayed on the phone with him, but had no idea where the storm was traveling.

The little guy was in lock-down at his school with no power and therefore no phones.

Our lovely daughter's high school is twenty minutes to the southeast and was never in any real danger. Thank the Lord she insisted on transferring back to her old high school when we moved.

The children were brave. I was not. I talked to middle son with tears coming down my face. I could not get to him. My husband could not get to him. There was nothing to do but wait and hope.

Three tornadoes went through Oklahoma City and the surrounding metropolitan area that day, not to mention the devastating and deadly tornado that hit Lone Grove, Oklahoma later that night. Our house is just off Kelly past Waterloo Road. The square mile to our south is completed by Santa Fe Road on the West and Sorghum Mill Road on the south. The tornado crossed Santa Fe south of Sorghum Mill and proceeded to take out the fence of the horse ranch there. It moved northeast into Sorghum Mill Estates where it damaged upwards of twenty homes and completely destroyed at least one. Then it crossed Sorghum Mill Road and went through the corner of Oak Tree taking roofs, trees, electric poles, and the entire top of one house with it. On the same northeast track, it crossed Kelly and tore across the golf course taking out fences and the driving range backstop. Behind the country club, it took another four homes, one of them belonging to the head of my husband's department at work, before crossing Waterloo Road, wiping out a fence around a pasture, and flattening an auto body shop and three other businesses. Our vet's new building was spared, but his old building that he uses for storage is just gone. I don't know what happened after the tornado crossed the next road to the east, but it was on the ground for several more miles. Luckily a lot of that country is pasture land, and there were no more reports of destroyed homes.

When I drove home that evening it was about 6:00 pm. Kelly Road was completely closed a mile from our neighborhood. I drove west down Sorghum Mill and almost hit a tree that had fallen over the road. We were without power all evening but it came on sometime after we had gone to bed. We were so incredibly lucky. I cannot even fathom the alternative.

All the homes in our neighborhood are in some state of receiving a new roof. Ours hasn't been assessed yet by the insurance company. Even though our house is only two years old, I am betting on replacement. We had high winds, marble sized hail, and a tornado passed as close as a half mile away.

I was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and grew up in Nowata County. I lived in Topeka, Kansas as a young adult. Tornadoes are not new to me. I am not afraid of them. But you can bet we're getting a storm shelter. Pronto.

All photos are images from news coverage of the February 10, 2009, tornadoes. The damaged home is in Oak Tree, just down Kelly Road.


laurie said...

those are amazing pictures. i'm so sorry for the people who lost their homes.

i love that your son holed up with a bag of milky way bars.

dig that cellar!

Babaloo said...

Your son clearly has his priorities right. Shelter and Milky Way! :)
Glad to hear you're OK, though. I can't imagine what it must be like, thankfully no tornadoes where we are.

MJ Krech said...

We were three houses away from total destruction several years ago. Three tornadoes hit our neighborhood in Columbia, MO in 1998. It looked like a war zone for the next year of rebuilding. Even though our house wasn't damaged, the majority of the homes were. We lost our patio furniture and struggled with what they call "survivor's guilt." I still run for shelter when the sirens go off near our new home in Jefferson City, MO. Even my tough husband goes with me now.

-Ann said...

How scary. I'm terrified of thunderstorms and tornadoes, even though I've never actually been in one, although we got them nearby in Ohio all the time when I was growing up.

Your son definitely has a good head on his shoulders. :)

Jennifer said...

We had the same storm, but fortunately it went south of us. I spent three years in Kansas and two in Wisconsin, so I know how scary those storms are!!! Glad the whole family is ok.
We had a monsoon on Friday, tornadoes on Saturday and five inches of snow on Sunday. I LOVE living in the Deep South!!!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

My God, Kaycie. You were incredibly lucky. I don't even being to understand how terrifying it must have been for you and your family.

As Laurie says, lovely that your son had milky way bars for company!

CJ xx

Pamela said...

I'm always amazed... amazed at the power of a tornado.

My first "to do" is to go on a storm chase. I should feel guilty that I want to experience the magnitude (from a distance) ... but there is something inside of me that wants to see it.

I'm so happy that all of you are okay (except for that initial fear for your children.(

willowtree said...

Wow, scary stuff! I'm glad you still have a house.

Kim said...

I meant to take pictures of my own, Laurie, but it seemed every time I went out I'd forgotten my camera. The damage was unbelievable. It won't be a cellar, actually, but a flat safe installed in the garage floor. We should have it in before the end of March when tornado season really takes hold.

My son told us stories about being shut in the laundry room with two cats and two dogs that night by candlelight, Babaloo. I laughed so hard.

Three houses down! A half mile was close enough for me, MJ. I'm so glad I didn't know how close it was to my sons until it was all over.

I was so proud of that boy, Ann. He is the most responsible and thoughtful of my children.

I know what you mean, Jennifer. I lived just outside of Augusta, Georgia when my middle son was a baby. What scared me there were the hurricanes. Thank goodness we weren't close to the coast!

Being a nearly life long resident of Oklahoma, tornadoes don't scare me too much, Crystal. However, being separated from my children during that violent storm was almost more than I could handle!

Pamela, you should just come down and spend some time with us in March and April. You can chase tornadoes to your heart's delight. My husband would probably even drive you!

I'm glad we still have a house, too, WT. So very glad.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I felt shivers up and down my spine as I read this. I grew up in Florida so we had tornadoes but the real threat was hurricanes. I'm so glad you and your family are safe and well. What you must have gone through while trying to get in touch with your son! Shades of Wizard of Oz! Get that storm shelter built quick!