May 3, 1999 ~ An Oklahoma Memory ♥

I realize that today is NOT May 3rd, but I figure, it’s my blog, I can be a day late! 😉  I’m just feeling the need to do a little reflecting.  For those of you who are not from Oklahoma, on May 3rd, 1999, we had a gazillion deadly tornadoes zig-zag through our state on that day.  If you were in the area or had loved ones in the area, you recall exactly where you were, am I right?

Our family was going through a transition period during that time.  We had recently moved back from Texas, our house was still leased out to some folks we were in the process of evicting for non-payment, we were living in a dump while waiting for “the process”, my husband was changing careers, and I was sick.  I had just come back from the doctor and was on the sofa watching television when it began south and west of us.  Hubby was out with our boys, fishing.  Then the weather break-in started.  It was still in the afternoon.  I called out to where the guys were and told them to be “heads-up” for storms. This was pretty common, so we would just make sure we were “aware”.  I’m going to skip the details of the next few hours of happenings and take you to the moment we discovered a safe room would not be strong enough for this tornado.  We were listening to Gary England on Channel 9, and he said, “Folks, you need to be underground for this one.”  We didn’t HAVE underground. And we put TOTAL trust in Gary England.  So we had to get creative.  We jumped into the jeep with another family, seven of us in all, and started driving to the back of this eighty acre property.  A new tin horn had recently been buried, and there was room for all of us.  The pounding rain had hit, the winds so strong, it was difficult keeping the jeep on path, the hail began to pounce.  We drove faster.  Finally arriving. ~The guys handed the kids down into the ditch to crawl into the tin horn, we followed.  The water was already present in the bottom of it.  Our oldest child had on his brand new tennis shoes.  He hesitated….I assured him we could get more shoes….”Just GO”!  The tornado was so huge. In fact, we didn’t realize it was the tornado.  It looked like a large cloud on the ground.  The entire time underground, we kept thinking of our loved ones that were in its path.  We started trying to call and give warning from “the hole”.  It missed us by approximately 300 yards.  Others were not so fortunate.

As soon as it passed, we piled back into the jeep and started behind it.  The destruction and devastation we came upon we will never forget.  And the smell, I wish I could explain that smell.  A mix of rain and evergreen from the ripped up trees and natural gas.  At some points, we didn’t even know where we were in our own stomping grounds, because the houses and churches were gone.  Ponds were full of dead cows.  Running trucks were lodged in trees.  Standing houses were doused with mudcakes.  This was one of the longest nights ever.  We had to make certain that friends and family were okay.  Dozens of phone calls from people we hadn’t talked to in years were wanting to hear the story first hand.  Feeling helpless, but needing to help.

Nope, a May 3rd cannot pass without all of this, and more, going through my mind.  And each time I hear of an area hit by a “twister”, I am reminded and I get that same feeling in my gut.  First of hopelessness and devastation.  Then of hope.  And by the way, that dump we were renting, well….I guess it wasn’t so bad after all.  We had a roof over our heads when many did not.  I called and got renter’s insurance the next day….;)

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18 Responses to May 3, 1999 ~ An Oklahoma Memory ♥

  1. HiKath says:

    Holy Crap!!! I had no idea what a tin horn was. thank you for the pictures.. Lose my breath just thinking about it. So glad God had plans for you and yours!!!

    • That’s funny….you being an Okie girl! “BUT” ~ that’s why I put the pics on….we had to show our daughters-in-law what they were, too.

      And we are blessed to keep on truckin’ ~ ♥

  2. Jeannette Wynne says:

    I’d never heard of a tin horn either! Wow- thank God it was there for all of you. Scared me just reading about your experience. Reminded me of seeing that movie a few years back “Tornado.”

    • The funny thing growing up in the land of the tornadoes, you are never really alarmed… just figure they will lift before they get to you. We gained a whole new prospective from this one ~

  3. you have a way of telling a story that puts me right there as if I were right there… you should write, I hope you do… you’re good at it..

    Carri ❤

  4. that was a terrifying day. we were in enid, oklahoma and it was the very first time we took shelter somewhere besides our own house, too. with sirens going off and wind and rain pelting us, we dragged the kids out in their pjs and crowded in with neighbors at a local church basement. this was the kids’ first real tornado experience and they were pretty shaken up. luckily, it missed us by quite a wide berth.

  5. That is an amazing story, and well told, Paula. I’m glad you were all okay. I grew up in Michigan and remember taking shelter in our basement. I remember several vivid nightmares about tornadoes. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest I was relieved to come to a place where I wouldn’t have to worry about tornadoes. And then almost immediately I got trapped in Eastern Washington by ash when Mt. St. Helens erupted.

    • Wow….I remember the Mt St. Helen’s mess ~ I guess you never know what you will deal with no matter where you may wander! It’s a better story to tell NOW than it was then ~ Have a great weekend♥

  6. Dottie says:

    Oh My Paula, I did not know you were so close and in so much danger from that storm. We had already moved to the lake when that happened but was so concerned for so many friends that were living in that area!! So glad you were able to get out of harm’s way!! There was so much devastation!! We were in the OKC and Bridgecreek area a few days after and the damage was unbelievable!! We have a cellar a few yards from our front door and have used it several times!! God Bless 🙂

  7. Renae says:

    We were living out of state watching the weather station trying to figure out what was going on. All the phone lines were over loaded……..sure was glad to have a redial button. When we had a chance to visit OK again it was just unbelievable all the damage

  8. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    wow – I remember this. Scary – we had one recently go through Dallas. Very scary.

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