LONE GROVE — Bob Mashore drives twice daily from Ardmore to Lone Grove to faithfully water his wife Cherrille’s hibiscus plants outside what used to be the couple’s home. "These hibiscus plants, they need a lot of water, so I come here every day,” he said Tuesday, two days before his 75th birthday. The Mashores’ home of 30 years became a storage barn shortly after a Feb. 10 tornado ripped through Lone Grove and blew away its second story. The couple have been living at an Ardmore hotel since, waiting for their new house to be completed this fall. Still, they consider themselves lucky. The EF-4 tornado that struck Lone Grove killed eight people and injured 46. It destroyed 114 homes. The same storm system, unusual in February, caused damage further north in parts of Edmond, Oklahoma City and Payne County. Lone Grove, a town of about 4,600 people 10 miles west of Ardmore off U.S. 70, was struck hardest. The Mashores could have been injured had not Cherrille Mashore decided to buy a storm shelter three years ago. "She’d always wanted one,” said Mashore, whose wife of 50 years has been in a wheelchair since 1988. "She got some inheritance; she put it to good use.”
New challengesLogistics and crisis management are nothing new to City Manager Marianne Elfert, a retired lieutenant colonel who once was in charge of Army payroll. But the magnitude of the Lone Grove tornado and its aftermath presented new challenges, ones Elfert said the city has handled well with help. Government, nonprofit and church groups mobilized quickly to assist with immediate needs. Volunteers contributed an estimated $167,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Oklahoma had allocated $750,000 for Lone Grove’s recovery, Elfert said. Because the city employed county staff and inmates instead of contracting the job to a private firm, the cost of clearing 3,006 tons of debris over two months was $550,000. "We still have a long-range recovery team and $200,000 of support is still available,” the city manager said. As for individuals and families, Elfert said: "I think everybody has been taken care of as much as allowed financially, and counseling is available. They thought of bringing in some FEMA trailers, but they weren’t necessary because so many had family and friends.” Elfert said Lone Grove and Carter County are working on hazard mitigation plans. They include buying generators for city buildings and the senior center and increasing the number of outdoor warning sirens from two to seven so everyone within its 34 square miles can hear them. Elfert also mentioned a legislative effort to require storm shelters at mobile home parks. The Feb. 10 tornado killed four people at the Bar K Mobile Home Park and wiped out all but four of its 41 mobile homes.
‘Bad remembrances’The Bar K, last seen strewn with debris, no longer exists. In its place is the Lone Grove Mobile Home Community. Fourteen new mobile homes have been brought in for purchase, said John Bowman, the park’s manager. Residents are shedding the old park’s poor image that included drug use, he said. "We’ve ended up with a lot more families and we’re really strict about who comes in here,” he said. The Ayres family moved into one of the park’s new homes in May after Crystal Ayres spent three months at a Dallas hospital. She remains in a wheelchair; her back was broken in six places by the tornado. She has regained limited movement in her legs and is determined to walk again. "It is still kind of weird; it’s our new house and I couldn’t put everything away,” she said. "So I’m having to make adjustments, but compared to where I was it’s a lot better.” Richard and Crystal Ayres and their kids Richard Jr. and Sam — short for Samantha — huddled together in their mobile home when the storm approached. Richard Ayres said the tornado lifted their trailer, moved it 150 feet and tossed it upside down. "We’ve had a lot of people help us; we didn’t do it by ourselves,” Richard Ayres said. "Almost everything in this house has been given to us after we lost just about everything.”
Business picking upLone Grove Feed and Supply, 15538 U.S. 70, opened last month under new ownership after the site was decimated by the tornado. Manager Melba Lee, who moved from Duncan to operate the store, said the community has "welcomed us with open arms” and that other businesses are popping in Lone Grove. "Since the beginning of August, we have been very busy,” she said Lee said the previous owner wanted to leave the business and start a new chapter, and the tornado wound up providing that opportunity while giving the store’s new owner and employees a fresh start in Lone Grove. Starting over is a recurring theme in Lone Grove after the tornado, from the former Bar K Mobile Home Park to City Hall to the many families who are rebuilding their lives along with their homes. Among them are the Mashores. Their new house will have wider doors, hallways and other amenities to accommodate Cherrille Mashore’s wheelchair. "She’s anxious to go home,” Bob Mashore said, "and so am I.”
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