May 22, 2013

One block: How neighbors saw twister's deadly path

Allen G. Breed / The Associated Press

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Kevin Metz shows holds up a stopped clock he found in the rubble of his father's home in Moore, Okla., on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Monday's EF5 tornado destroyed Wayne Osmus' home and much of the Oklahoma City suburb. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)

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The body of Buster, Wayne Osmus' pit-chow mix, lies under a pile of rubble near his Moore, Okla., home on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The dog died when he was caught out in Monday's EF5 tornado that flattened much of the Oklahoma City suburb. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)

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Knight could see the massive cloud churning toward them as they crept inside.

His neighbor at No. 1311, Jalayne Jann, was just arriving home. Jann was at the insulation company she and her husband, Darrin, own with relatives on 12th Street in Moore. The 40-year-old bookkeeper decided she would be safer in their backyard shelter than a metal building downtown and headed home.

She was talking on the phone with Darrin, who was up in Norman inspecting some jobs, when she heard the announcer on his truck radio say the storm was at 149th and Pennsylvania Avenue — just up the street. She looked up and saw a wall of debris.

"Get in there," her husband shouted.

Her "weenie dog," Hoss, was already in the shelter. She scooped up Cheerios, the couple's pit bull, and sprinted for safety.

As the wind screamed around her, she struggled with the bulkhead door, turning the handle while the locking mechanism was still caught on the outer lip.

"I don't know how to do this," she shouted to herself.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she managed to secure the door. About a minute later, the storm struck.

Next door, at 1313 SW 149th, Wayne and Patricia Osmus had an 8-foot-square concrete shelter beside their swimming pool. But it would do their family little good.

When the storm hit, Wayne Osmus was downtown at the auto parts store where he works. So it fell to his 42-year-old son, Mark Metz, to get his mother and disabled uncle, Jack Young, 50, into the bunker.

Patricia Osmus, 67, lame in both hips from operations several years ago, was struggling to get Young outside. But the wind pressure was so great that Metz couldn't open the metal door.

The three retreated to a designated safe room — a tiny linen closet at the center of the brick house.

Nearby, Gene and Colleen Perdue, 69 and 68, were facing a similar choice.

Like the Osmuses, the couple had a shelter. They'd installed it 39 years ago, when they built their three-bedroom brick home at 1409 SW 149th.

They'd been meaning to update it, but just never seemed to get around to it. When they finally needed it, they realized the rusted fastenings would be no match for the winds.

They hurried through the oak-floored kitchen and formal family room to a 4-by-4-foot bedroom closet and covered their heads with a blanket. They listened as the ceilings were sucked up, one by one, until they heard the one above their heads begin to peel away.

"Well," Gene Perdue said, turning to his wife. "This is it."

___

Oilfield parts supply salesman Scott Shelton was at work when he learned of the storm's path. When he couldn't get through to Angie, he jumped in his vehicle and sped home.

When he reached the area, police were already blocking off access. He met Max Garland, who was trying to get to his parents.

The two men picked their way along back roads. When they finally reached their block an hour later, they were amazed to see everyone sitting in the Garlands' driveway, dazed but unhurt.

Shelton hugged his wife and son in mute relief. The Garlands' home was gone but for a tiny section of the front wall; the storm had ripped the vent covers from the shelter, but could not gain entry.

It would take three hours for Wayne Osmus to make it back home.

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