I never learned fear in the midst of a hurricane, but rather awe. As a child in Corpus Christi, it was a normal occurrence. That had plenty of warning and time to prepare. As a late teen, we threw hurricane parties. Once as a young adult, my neighbor, an elderly man, tried his john boat to a tree outside his one room shack and fled for high ground but I was young, 10ft tall and bulletproof.
I crept outside, plastering my body against the side of the house as I inched my way to the edge. The wind whipped and howled in unholy din! Peering around the corner, I saw my neighbors boat hovering in mid air, staining the wire taught rope.
Suddenly, we were in the eye of the storm, the eeriest place on earth. As it passes over, there is a dead calm as if all the air were sucked out and you’re standing in a vacuum. Not a blade of grass moves and there is absolute silence as though heaven itself stood still, not a bird or crickets chirp….complete silence. But tornados are a whole other story.
Tornados are a force of their own. With little to no warning, on a clear sunny day, can slam down upon you like the fist of God. It’s fury is wild and path unpredictable. Time magazine states we had 16 min to save our lives.
The plains of Oklahoma are prime real estate for tornados and I recall that last one on the ranch… Bad weather was moving in, storms with hail, possible tornado activity and winds 30-40 mph with gusts up to 60mph.
I fed the girls (our horses) and got them out of the barn so I could get to work on it early and prep for the weather that night. The morning was cool but the sun had warmed things up quickly, making jeans and the long sleeve shirt (and rubber mudboots of course) a regret.
My list for this morning was muck the stalls and replace bedding for our mare, Big Momma as she would surely (with my luck) have her baby right in the midst of the storm. I needed to skim and fill water barrels, pitch the loose hay, sweep out the entire barn, mix the yearlings feed in the food bin, pick up all trash & debris and organize supplies.
While doing these chores the tornado sirens went off. Where we were, the sirens sound when a tornado has touched down nearby. I don’t mind telling you that it set me on edge! The sound of them recalled the tornado of may 2013.
I was with Clay at the hospital during his back surgery, watching the black swirling sky, floors above the ground from the hospital room window until the blinds had to be drawn for protection. Clay’s kids mom and I were losing our minds as neither of us could reach Cody or his friend Devin who were caring for the ranch and both us hearing that tornados were touching down all around in a 5 Mile radius of our home.
Thank the Lord they had gotten the dogs and went into the storm shelter but others were not as fortunate that day. Clay, a federal officer and supervisor of a Fug-Ops team, only hours out of surgery, began getting calls from his men. An elementary school took a direct hit and many children did not survive. Clay and I grieved as his men responded and took on the task of recovering those children from the debris.
The tornado, a deadly EF5, had touched down in Bridgecreek about a mile from my ranch. Similar to the one in may 1999 that followed the same exact path, a mile wide with winds at 300 mph.
Later, as I drove from my home, I could see it’s 14 mile trek clearly, ripped through mangled trees and gouged earth. It had moved northeast , cutting it’s tragic path straight through the barn of a large horse ranch 3 miles from home leaving nothing but twisted steel. Jumping hwy 37, it completely destroyed the old railway bridge then crossed I-44 and headed into the city of Moore.
The city of Moore was unrecognizable. This no longer resembled anything we knew, it was as though I had stepped into a war torn country…like a bomb had leveled it, people displaced, their homes and belonging scattered to the wind, family members desperately searching for the missing.
The Orr family Farms race horse training center, Celestial Acres took a devastating hit leaving 150 horses dead in just one pasture!
On this day though, I worried about whether to stall the horses in the barn or to let them run free dreading a date I had witnessed before. Clay said “We can only do what we can do. Leave it in God’s hands” and he was right. There was danger leaving them out to pasture and there was danger leaving the in the barn. All I could do was get as ready as possible, pray and hand it over to God. Clay reminded me as I prayed for our horses… “um….pray for us too!”