Peppers Ranch foster care community is recovering a year after tornado

A tornado ripped through Peppers Ranch last May 24, destroying buildings and killing horses. The ranch is recovering one year later.
by Diana Baldwin Modified: May 23, 2012 at 10:47 am •  Published: May 23, 2012

Nine-year-old Sarah Meachan's love for riding horses came to a halt after a tornado ripped through Peppers Ranch, killing three horses and injuring seven others.

Sarah, her mother, Jill Meachan, her three siblings and a friend survived the May 24 tornado in a storm shelter in the garage of a house under construction on the 240-acre ranch, a foster care community where abused and neglected children live with families and are often adopted.

The house was damaged, but everyone in the shelter was safe. So were 22 other children, eight parents and a trim carpenter on the ranch. But the tornado caused nearly $1 million in damages.

Sarah was 6 years old when she fell in love with riding horses. Her interest wavered after the tornado at the state's first foster care facility of its kind.

Adding to her dilemma was that the director of the horse program left shortly after the tornado.

“She was sad,” Sarah's mother said. “She didn't want any part of it.”

The horse barn that was destroyed in the storm has been rebuilt. The injured horses have healed, and five new horses now live on the ranch 1.6 miles south of State Highway 33 and Western Avenue.

Three white crosses stand at the graves of the horses — Sonny, Meg and Freckles. The children visit there frequently.

Back in the saddle

As the anniversary approaches Thursday, Sarah is back to riding.

Jill Meachan said her daughter is spending a lot of time at the horse barn.

The ranch is looking good a year after that dreadful evening. About 95 percent of the damages have been repaired.

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by Diana Baldwin
Sr. Reporter
Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976 and came to The Oklahoman in 1991. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote...
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