Oklahoma tornadoes: Shawnee-area tornado carved a path similar to recent twister

Some residents of a trailer park near Shawnee say they won't be moving back to the area after a second tornado in three years ripped through rural area on Sunday.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com Published: May 21, 2013
Advertisement
;

Pat “Millie” Mitchell has lived in the Steelman Estates trailer park for years, but the feisty senior said those days are over.

Three years ago, on May 10, 2010, a deadly tornado traced a nearly identical path through the Shawnee area.

Many survivors of Sunday's twister pointed in the distance to the path of the May 2010 storm.

“It got that barn and those houses right south of State Highway 102, you can see it from here,” Mitchell said, motioning to the north of the trailer park. “This second one, on Sunday, that's about enough for me.”

Mitchell jokingly said she was going to move into her neighbor's “lakeside property.”

“It's fully stocked,” the neighbor said. “Go right ahead.”

Other residents expressed doubt about returning to Steelman Estates, but most said they were undecided at this point.

Like many other residents of the trailer park, Mitchell and her husband took refuge in a community storm shelter. Moments later, the tornado hit.

“It sounded like 15,000 jets,” Mitchell said a day after the tornado nearly destroyed all of the 85 or so mobile homes there. “It came right over us, real low. It was overwhelming. It sounded like jet engines, that's the best description I can give.

“I and another lady just dropped to our knees, because we knew the trailer park was gone.”

The women were right. When they emerged from their hiding place, the once busy park was eerily quiet, save for the haunting sound of hissing natural gas.

Mitchell said the tornado deposited a hot tub into her trailer but left some things in her home oddly undisturbed.

“The towels were still on the rack, like they'd never been touched,” she said. “The chest in the bedroom is just fine, clothes in it dry and clean.

“My cabinets are all tore to pieces but the kitchen utensils are still hanging up.”

Her two dogs, “a fat Chihuahua and an Akita,” survived inside Mitchell's badly damaged trailer.

Others were not as lucky. Mangled cars and trucks were tossed about like children's toys in a sandbox. A SpongeBob SquarePants blanket hung from a tree, blowing in the wind.

Many trailers were nearly destroyed. The one that once housed Glen Irish, one of two people killed by Sunday's storms in central Oklahoma, was literally wiped away.

Parts and pieces of Irish's trailer were thrown across the gravel road and beyond.

Irish's body was lying in the small yard in front of Mitchell's trailer. It was obvious the 79-year-old was dead, she said.

Mitchell said her grandson covered Irish with a sheet. He'd been thrown about 40 yards by the twister.

“We didn't know Mr. Irish too well ... he had lived here, I don't know, about 10 years. He kept to himself,” Mitchell said. “He was a good neighbor, though, like we all are.”

Sunday's other tornado victim was Billy Hutchinson, 76, the state medical examiner reported. Hutchinson was identified by the medical examiner as a Shawnee resident, but it was not clear where he was at the time of the storms.

‘This is Oklahoma'

Amber Ash, who lives in Steelman Estates with her daughter and next door to her parents, said Tuesday that rain and bad weather had slowed cleanup and recovery efforts.

Ash, who rode out the storm in the same community shelter as Mitchell, said she and other residents “haven't heard from anybody, not FEMA or anybody.” She and her family are staying at their business closer to town until things settle down.

The young mother also said she and her family plan to move back into the trailer park when the debris is cleared away.

She said the trailers owned by her parents were not insured but “the lots are paid off.”

“Not only that, but we have a lot of memories here, a lot of good times here,” Ash said. “But it does make you nervous, with the one that came so close three years ago, but this is Oklahoma — you can get hit anywhere.”



Advertisement


Related Multimedia

Related Articles

But it does make you nervous ... but this is Oklahoma — you can get hit anywhere.”

Amber Ash,
Lives in Steelman Estates near Shawnee

Trending Now



AROUND THE WEB

  1. 1
    Antonin Scalia faults Sonia Sotomayor for 'doubly shameful' suggestion that Michigan voters are...
  2. 2
    The NRA Quietly Backs Down On Domestic Violence
  3. 3
    Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir to work Kentucky Derby
  4. 4
    Oklahoma basketball: Juco guard set to visit Sooners on Wednesday
  5. 5
    Texas town ready to drink its own toilet water
+ show more