GROVE — Colby Jones and his houseguests were within seconds of driving into what they thought was a tornado before the driver threw the four-wheel-drive pickup into reverse and headed backward, trying to outrun Sunday's storm.
“There was nowhere to go or turn around, so we drove backwards,” said Jones, who was a passenger in the pickup driven by Charlie Zandbergen.
Friends and relatives from the Tulsa area had spent the day at Jones' Grand Lake house in Cleora, about 20 miles east of Grove on the north side of the lake.
They were driving on a rural road south of Cleora when it began to hail and they noticed flying debris.
Jones said they drove toward Red Arrow Marina, where they saw a white funnel cloud over Grand Lake.
“We were just trying to run from it,” Jones said. “All we could see was debris flying everywhere.”
Jones said when they finally made it back to his lake house, they saw 15 uprooted oak trees between 60 and 70 feet tall in his yard, including one that crashed into his living room.
“You can't see the houses in my neighborhood for all the downed trees,” Jones said. “One tree narrowly missed a propane tank that was between my house and the neighbor's house.”
Jones said he has never seen a tornado or been close to one before.
“It was just all so fast,” Jones said. “Everyone was just screaming.”
Six mobile homes in southern Delaware County were demolished by the storm, Sheriff Jay Blackfox said.
No injuries were reported.
The wooded area between West Siloam Springs and Kansas, OK, was destroyed, he said. There are downed trees and power lines, trees that were uprooted and trees lying on the roofs of houses, Blackfox said.
Meteorologist Joe Sellers with the National Weather Service in Tulsa said crews were en route to Delaware County on Monday morning.
“So far all we know it was a possible tornado,” Sellers said.
Flooding continues to be a problem in Grove and Jay. Four homes were temporarily evacuated, a Grove police spokesman said.
Grove has downed power lines and trees, but most of the damage is in the south part of the county, said Debbie Bottoroff, assistant city manager.
The city of Grove sent six police officers to Joplin, Mo., to help with rescue efforts after a tornado hit the Missouri community, killing at least 89 people, Bottoroff said.