MIDWEST CITY - Only 15 seconds separated Mike Pederson from a rental truck in the dining room of the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Midwest City on Monday evening.
Pederson, a Cracker Barrel employee, had helped move about 30 people into the restaurant's back kitchen and then went to the front to look at the oncoming storm.
"I was facing south and saw a massive debris wall coming right at me," Pederson said. "I went in and told everybody to get down, and about 15 seconds later I felt my ears pop.
"Then it was just massive, massive destruction. The kitchen was about the only thing that survived."
Customers hid under tables and some sat on the floor, but no one was injured in the restaurant, he said.
"Actually, it was very silent," he said. "Nobody screamed, nobody yelled, nobody cried. I think everybody was just in shock and awe."
Pederson re-entered the dining room and discovered a Penske rental truck had been blown into the room. At the front door was the trash bin of a neighboring restaurant.
"We don't know where our Dumpster is," said Mike Hull, associate manager of the restaurant.
Pederson said the Hampton Inn near the restaurant was also damaged by the tornado.
He said the tornado cut a path about 200 yards on either side of the Cracker Barrel.
Jerry Lojka, public information officer with the Midwest City Fire Department, said the perimeter of damage ran from about SE 29 to Reno Avenue and from Sooner Road to Air Depot Boulevard. Lojka said emergency assistance included 15 area fire and police departments and other volunteers.
A triage unit was set up next to the drive-through windown of the Eckerd's drug store at SE 15 and Air Depot. The same parking lot served as a command post.
Pederson stood in a mixture of emergency lights and a background of lightning as he reflected upon experience.
"I've been thanking God that nobody was injured," he said. "It's probably taken my job away from me, it's taken my car away from me, but I'm walking."Archive ID: 761624