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Oklahoma tornadoes: Newcastle residents cope with devastation

A Newcastle family fled to the cellar just seconds before a tornado destroyed their home, along with about 40 other homes. Then they had to push their way from the cellar through limbs of a huge, fallen tree.
BY SONYA COLBERG Published: May 26, 2011

“This is bad. It is. But there are a lot of things that are worse. These are just material things. People have lost their loved ones,” she said.

Bates said her father pushed tornado awareness and built a cellar the day after he survived an Oklahoma City tornado that hit his car lot in the 1970s. Tuesday she stayed with her mother nearby in a half-underground house, with her daughter, Brandi, 26, and 20-month-old granddaughter, Rayleigh.

Bates found the two things that mattered most when she returned home to the pile of debris: her dog, Angel, and a few family photographs.

Crittenden said preliminary estimates show about 40 houses were destroyed, 50 had major damage and about 100 more had minor damage. Five Newcastle residents suffered minor injuries and were treated by firefighters and paramedics.

The Carr neighborhood is just north of the civic center, which includes the police station, elementary school and city storm shelter. As the tornado approached, people parked along U.S. 62 and ran to the storm shelter to join between 1,200 and 1,500 people from surrounding neighborhoods crowded into the storm shelter, along with 30 pets, Crittenden said.

“We had the doors open until pretty much the last second. We had to make sure the people inside would be safe. At the same time, how do you close the door on someone trying to run inside? We got everyone in,” he said.

“It was pretty intense.”

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