Within moments of a tornado whipping through and destroying most of the homes on the corner of Valley Creek Drive and SE 75, Steven Blair exited his laundry room and sprinted next door to check on his neighbor. Most of the homes on this street corner in Deerfield Estates just west of Choctaw Road and south of Interstate 40 were destroyed. Among the homes destroyed was that of Blair’s neighbor. "There was an issue where they could have been trapped,” Blair said. "I smelled natural gas.” Blair’s neighbors — Air Force Sgt. Scott Thiels, his wife, Lisa, their twin 11-year-old boys and the dog — rode out the tornado in their bathroom. "We all laid down in the bathtub and after about 10 seconds the house exploded,” Scott Thiels, 35, said. Thiels emerged from his bathroom and was a bit stunned to see daylight and his neighbor. "It’s a little hard to explain,” he said of the sensation. "Today (Tuesday), I’m really not upset,” he said as he looked over the debris that was once home. "Everything that was in that house and breathing is still breathing.”
Tornado’s pathThe tornado crashed through about 5:40 p.m., leaving more than a dozen homes damaged and at least six destroyed. Some residents in Deerfield Estates — a relatively new neighborhood filled with several young families — watched the twister run over homes in Deerfield West before jumping a creek and heading for their houses. Another neighbor, David Reid, said he watched the tornado as it came over a hill to the west. "We saw it coming and then it looked like it had dissipated, so we were thinking we were OK, but then all of a sudden debris started flying and we got to the closet,” Reid, 38, said on Tuesday. Reid and his wife, Robyn, could barely fit in the small closet near the center of their home. "We couldn’t get the door shut and we saw the roof go off,” he said. "We heard louder and louder crashes and then all of a sudden we saw light.” Wall board is all that remained between the Reids and the destruction. A couple of houses around the corner, Christa French, 35, rushed her 11-year-old and 9-year-old daughters into a closet. "We just heard the windows start shattering,” French said. "I just threw the girls in the closet. I saw my closet door fly off and I just dove on my girls.” On Tuesday, French was cleaning up and hoping her husband, John, who is in the Air Force and in South America, could catch a plane home to be with their family. A print of dogs playing poker survived the storm, but the two family cars did not survive as well. "I just can’t get over the garage door wrapped around the truck,” French said. Residents recounted several incidents of damage from the storm. Blair couldn’t find his barbecue grill or porch swing. His shed was shredded and littered across several different yards. A tree had been blown into the middle of what was once the Reid home and a trailer chained to a tree had blown into another tree. Scott Thiels looked for his grandfather’s World War II U.S. Marine Corps dress cap. It had hung on the wall in the home before the tornado.