Oklahoma tornadoes: Home shelter shields 14 from twister in Cole

Fourteen children and adults survived a tornado east of Cole in a home shelter. The home, which was ripped from its foundation, housed a day care.
BY DAVID ZIZZO dzizzo@opubco.com Modified: May 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm •  Published: May 24, 2011

Cheryl Mayo and 14 other people huddled in a shelter as a monstrous tornado churned overhead late Tuesday afternoon.

The tornado blew open the door of the storm shelter, Mayo said about 30 minutes after the storm passed by. “As soon as it blew the lid open you could see that the house was gone.”

The home was destroyed, along with a double-wide trailer on the same property on State Highway 74B east of Cole, a small town about 15 miles southwest of Norman.

Utility poles were snapped in pieces, one car was on its top, and the road was blocked by downed power lines.

Zach Johnson, 17, who lived with his parents, Steve and Kelly Johnson, in the two-story, five-bedroom home that was less than a year old, said it felt “like something hit your head. It felt like a meteorite or something hit the Earth.”

Johnson said he wondered why the door was ripped off the shelter, which was buried in the floor of the garage.

“I don't think my dad shut the door all the way,” he said.

“He had it shut,” Mayo said. “It just blew off. The pressure, God, you could feel the pressure down in there.”

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