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Oklahoma tornadoes: Stories from the neighborhood

Survivors of Monday's tornado share their stories and plan for the future
by Adam Kemp and Jonathan Sutton Modified: May 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm •  Published: May 21, 2013
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The Ellerds: 603 Kings Manor

Tyler Ellerd spent the night in a tent, 5 feet from the ruins of his home.

Ellerd, 22, was trying to ward off any would-be looters from combing through his child home and making away with what little he had left.

But remaining so close to his house, which he shared with his father and sister, left Ellerd feeling restless.

“It was a little weird,” he said. “I didn't do much sleeping with all this on my mind. I just kept waking up and looking out the tent flap at my house.”

Ellerd's sister Jessica was the first to arrive at the house after the monster storm passed over. She said she had come as fast as she could when she heard about the storm, fearing for her father's life.

“I knew he probably didn't leave because he likes to sit at home and watch the tornadoes,” she said. “Thankfully, he got in the laundry room with my dog and they both survived without a scratch.”

Jessica, 24, said now her family will begin the process of beginning again.

“I can't really describe the feeling, just that everything we have is gone,” she said. “I don't know how to start back. One day at a time I guess.”

Mike Mobly: Southgate Baptist Church

Mike Mobly spent Tuesday morning sweeping his neighborhood from his church's parking lot.

Mobly has served the past 18 years as the pastor of Southgate Baptist Church; he volunteered to help after the Oklahoma City bombing and helped the community heal after the May 3, 1999, tornado.

But he said Monday's tornado felt different.

“I'm hearing people say it's so much worse,” Mobly said. “This is unbelievable just because of those two schools. We had several members in the affected areas. So far we have been very fortunate to find all of our people.”

Southgate didn't receive much damage despite being separated by a field from ruined homes in a destroyed neighborhood.

Mobly, along with several church members who took the day off from work, were busy cleaning debris from the parking lot so they could set up food and water stations.

“This is not our church that's destroyed, it's that neighborhood blown over here,” he said. “As a church, we are doing fine, so it's time for us to get ready to help as much as we can.”

The Gelvins: 9245 4th Place

The tornado missed Brian Gelvin's house by less than half a mile.

He and his wife, Phyllis, high-tailed it south out of town when they heard the tornado was on its way. When they got to Indian Hills Road, they joined the crowd of people who had stopped to watch.

“Amazing power,” Gelvin said. “We were worried about our daughter, so we went and check on her, but it missed her house, too. It went right between our houses. Couldn't be more lucky.”

After checking on his daughter to make sure she was OK, the Gelvins made the long trek back home. Between traffic, closed roads and debris, it took them five hours to get home.

“I'm glad we left because you're better safe than sorry,” he said. “But I know a lot of those people don't have a home anymore just across the street. All I have to do is pick up the yard, and they have nothing.”

Tyler Reynolds, 16, and Zach Reidel, 17, Westmoore High School

Two Moore teenagers walked through their town Tuesday morning to survey damage and found a town that isn't the same.

Tyler Reynolds remembered hanging out with friends at SW4 Street and Telephone Road just a week ago; the intersection is now surrounded by splintered wood and twisted metal.

Reynolds and his friend, Zach Reidel, were at Westmoore High School when the tornado hit Monday afternoon and had no idea the extent of the damage.

“You can't recognize anything,” Reynolds said.

The two said they spend Monday evening calling friends and family trying to make sure everyone was OK.

Now that the teens have seen what's left of the area they call home, there is little more than shock on their faces.

“I won't ever believe it,” Reynolds said.


by Adam Kemp
Enterprise Reporter
Adam Kemp is an enterprise reporter and videographer for the Oklahoman and Newsok.com. Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State...
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by Jonathan Sutton
Breaking News Reporter
Jonathan Sutton is a reporter covering breaking news and crime for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. He grew up in Ada and has a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University. He was the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily O'Collegian, OSU's student...
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