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Oklahoma tornadoes: Running away works for reporter, family

by Jay F. Marks Modified: June 2, 2013 at 12:25 am •  Published: June 1, 2013

It’s starting to sink in.

My family and I are among the lucky ones after the latest round of deadly tornadoes struck our state.

We fled our home in Yukon, with my mother and four pets in tow, as a two-mile-wide tornado reportedly bore down on us.

It probably wasn’t the wisest course of action, as at least five of the people who died in Friday night’s storms were in their cars.

Fortunately our 7-year-old daughter was with her grandparents and the roads were clear enough to help my family avoid the worst of the storms.

I’ve been in Oklahoma since I was just 2 years old, but I’m usually not too worried about tornadoes.

That changed a bit Friday when the sirens started going off in Yukon about 5:30 p.m., as we waited for my mom, a Tulsa resident working with the Red Cross, to make it in from Moore.

Dawn and I huddled with in our daughter’s closet, the closest thing we have to an inside room in our house, while listening to some faceless TV meteorologist on the radio. Mom joined us about 6, as the weatherman’s warnings grew increasingly dire.

Hit the road if you’re not underground in Yukon.

I wasn’t sure if this was the proper advice, but an urgent call from my brother-in-law, a police officer in Edmond, convinced us to try to run away from the approaching storm.

We bundled all three dogs and the cat into my 2004 Chevy Blazer and started driving south as the massive storm system moved east through El Reno along Interstate 40.

We were able to quickly pass through Mustang, with clearer skies ahead, but we kept driving because we still didn’t feel safe.

Others apparently didn’t feel the same, as there were plenty of folks camped out along the road with their cameras and phones trained on the darkening sky.

As cell service got spotty, we relied on text messages from my dad in Tulsa and a friend in south Texas.They monitored the storms online as the radio only offered information about the tornado’s rampage through Oklahoma City.

Dad said he watched an Oklahoma City television station’s radar from laptop while monitoring the local weather on his TV. At one point, there appeared to be as many as nine tornadoes around the metro area.

We also got guidance from my brother-in-law via Facebook, interspersed with occasional phone calls from my in-laws at Lake Texoma.

Lots of other people tried to drive away from the bad weather, but the traffic wasn’t too bad.

The only real scary point came as we were backed up on State Highway 4 north of Tuttle, with heavy rain swirling around us. A text to mom’s phone indicated there might be a tornado nearby, but we pressed on.

I veered east on a county road as southbound traffic backed up on both sides of the highway, but soon looped back around to continue our flight south.

We broke into the clear after we turned toward Chickasha on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike.

We pressed on to the Grady County seat before finally stopping about 9 p.m. for a fast-food dinner and a visit to Walmart in search of chargers for our depleted cell phones.

I’d heard secondhand that the night’s tornado warnings had expired so we headed back home about 10 p.m.

The streets of Mustang were dark because storms had knocked out the power.

We saw new lakes of water that had sprung up along Mustang Road, but we pressed on. I drove through several feet of water just south of Reno.

I knew as I did it that I shouldn’t have, but I was just ready to be home.

by Jay F. Marks
Energy Reporter
Jay F. Marks has been covering Oklahoma news since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He worked in Sulphur and Enid before joining The Oklahoman in 2005. Marks has been covering the energy industry since 2009.
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