At that moment, a portable radio blurted out the news.
"Residents of Midwest City should take cover immediately. This tornado is headed straight for the downtown area."
Out on the basketball court, school officials made the announcement.
"Everyone must leave the court and move to the hallways or locker rooms. The storm is on its way."
But there was no panic among the hundreds huddled together. Only the dread of what was coming.
Some embraced loved ones; others held hands; many just waited and stared into the blackness.
"Downtown Midwest City, take cover. Tinker Field, take cover," the radio said again.
Then, miraculously, another message.
"Wait a minute ... . The funnel seems to be making a left turn. It is missing Tinker."
In the darkness, hearts were buoyed.
"It now seems headed north between Air Depot and Sooner Road," the radio voice continued.
"Pray for Del City," one voice said in the dark.
Midwest City and Del City caught the funnel's fury.
As word of the storm's new path filtered through the crowd, a new worry began. A strong odor of natural gas began to fill the field house so, once again, the hundreds were evacuated to the main school building. But once outside, the feeling of relief spread through the crowd as the danger seemed over. Most headed not back to the school but to their cars for a trip home to assess wind and hail damage.
A drive through the city's traffic- congested west side showed downed power lines, especially along Air Depot Boulevard, downed power across most of the city, and limited or no phone service. Debris, probably blown from the west and the funnel track, littered the city's west side. Many cars were showing the hailstone damage.
Rose State College, west of Air Depot, was being evacuated because of downed power lines and minor damage.
But through it all, the 500 people
at Midwest City High School were