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Oklahoma tornadoes: Families talk about experience and plans

The importance of family mentioned often.
BY BRYAN PAINTER Modified: May 26, 2011 at 9:27 am •  Published: May 26, 2011

Wife Kelli Witte was going through what was left, and mentioned a clear crate. The standout basketball player at Heritage Hall High School went on to play at East Central University at Ada. Before each game, her father Mike Donovan, would give her a card and a yellow rose. The cards would read, “Kelli you are a superstar, go get them. Love Dad.”

With a little insulation on the box, Kelli Witte pulled the lid back Wednesday and took out the stack of cards. She'd kept every card. These were another reminder of what mattered most, family.

Although the storm shelter door was pinned and locked, it was still bowing, Becky Brown said. Her husband Chad Brown, an Edmond police officer who lives in the Wolf Creek Lake addition, was holding onto it with both hands.

Behind him were his family and three other families in the center of the shelter. The adults were huddled around the children.

“We were praying,” she said.

Becky Brown said the pressure was more noticeable to her than the sound as the tornado moved through.

The tops of the shelter vents were ripped off and the rain and some small debris started falling in. They continued to pray.

After the tornado passed, Chad opened the hatch and realized their two-story home was destroyed.

“I will say this,” Becky Brown said. “I had a best friend who was about killed in the May 3, 1999, tornado in Moore. She has had 17 reconstructive surgeries.

“That's why we have a storm shelter.”

Not a good sign

Richard Rice, 75, his wife, Loretta Rice, and son, Rick Rice, went down into the storm shelter in the garage floor of their Guthrie home.

Way back in 1947, he'd seen a tornado in western Oklahoma near Leedey. But he just saw that one, no close call.

Knowing Tuesday's storm had passed he slid the door back just a little and noticed that the garage door was still there Then he slid the shelter door back even more and the saw the insulation and thought “we've got problems.” Rice exited the shelter.

“You know you're really in trouble when you walk in the kitchen and look up and rain hits you in the face,” he said. “The main thing is the weather guys gave us a strong warning and we were safe.”

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