PIEDMONT — Duane and Tiffany Johnson used to chase storms.
May 24, one chased them.
An EF5 crumbled and splintered their home, but didn't harm their family. Without an above- or below-ground safe room of their own, they sought refuge at a storm shelter in a neighbor's garage floor.
The next day, while equipment was being used to move the remnants of walls during cleanup, the Johnsons decided that when they built their new house, they would also build an in-ground shelter near the back porch. They expect to complete both in 2012.
“We had talked about how the safest place in our house is the center point which was kind of like our pantry and underneath our staircase,” Tiffany said. “It was completely gone. If for some reason we were in our house when it hit, I strongly believe we would not be here.”
That afternoon, Tiffany was in the garage floor shelter of some neighbors who live across the creek from the Johnsons. Her husband, Duane, who was still at his house, watched the tornado as it approached another neighbor's three-story house. At that point, he hurried across the bridge and joined his wife in the garage floor shelter.
After the EF5 passed, Duane walked up and stepped out of the shelter.
He went to the red dirt cliff along the creek between their two-story home and the neighbor's house in northeastern Canadian County.
Duane turned around and walked back, looked at Tiffany and said “We're homeless.”
Less than a year earlier, they had moved into the two-story log-style home Duane had built. The tornado reduced it to a heap.
The Johnsons, now living in a mobile home, began rebuilding in the fall on the same location, have just finished the Sheetrock and are about to start the work on cabinets.
Before the tornado, they had casually talked about building a storm shelter.
“It wasn't really anything serious,” Tiffany said. “In Oklahoma there are tornadoes, but it always seemed to go around us. We'll build the shelter now.
“Hopefully, that was a day we never have to relive.”