“There's going to be a lot of work,” Wilson said. “This could be several days unless we get some crews in here. The county has men, equipment and chain saws. We're chopping, and we're doing everything we can to get everybody through.”
‘Felt like a bomb'
Several eye witnesses said two tornadoes hit at the same time, Wilson said. From the damage he's seen, that looks to be the case, he said.
An apparent tornado then traveled from Tushka northeast and came out about one mile east of Atoka, Wilson said. It missed Atoka, but hit again just northeast of that town, leaving damage for 12 to 15 miles.
“It left a path of destruction plumb across,” Wilson said.
Many in Tushka sought shelter.
“It felt like a bomb,” said Jennifer Buffington, who fled to a storm cellar with her husband, Tony Stiles, and their seven children when the tornado sirens sounded.
When the family emerged, they found the windows blown out of their house. The family sought shelter at First Baptist Church in nearby Atoka.
“Everything in my house looks like shambles,” said Jennifer Buffington, 36, whose children range in age from 1 to 20.
Easton Crow, a junior at the public school where students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend, said he was at a baseball game in nearby Hugo when the storm hit. He went by the school and saw the damage: The roof was gone, the top story of one of the school's buildings was torn off and textbooks were scattered everywhere.
“I'm heartbroken. This is where most of us grew up,” said Crow, 17. “I'm just in awe that in a few seconds, memories that have been built were taken.”
Principal Matt Simpson said the school won't be usable for the rest of the school year.
“I've been doing this for 10 years, but this is definitely new for me,” Simpson said.
“It means a lot of challenges I wasn't expecting.”
Becky Anderson, Atoka County Emergency Management secretary, said the area “looks like a war zone.”