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Victims Scurry As Tornado Rakes Homes

Robert Medley Published: May 4, 1999

A half-mile wide tornado slammed into southwestern Oklahoma City about 7:15 p.m. Monday, killing at least one person, injuring numerous others and destroying or damaging as many as 100 homes.

Homes were heavily damaged in the Country Place Estates between Pennsylvania and May avenues off SW 134. People, dogs and emergency workers filled the streets as police officers searched for anyone trapped in homes.

Mike Strapason, 32, rushed his wife, Ronda, 35, and their two children, Keli 7, and Christopher, 2, into a master bedroom closet as the tornado shook their house.

"There was a big rush of air. We heard it rumbling, and I said, 'It's here!'" Mike Strapason said. "It felt like the house moved 6 inches, and I smelled cedar and trees. We were just praying to God that He would save us, and He did."

The family escaped their demolished house uninjured.

A few houses down, Karen and Gene Schemmel grabbed a crucifix and two pillows and jumped into a bathroom just in time. Karen Schemmel said, "Our ears felt like they were going to explode."

A picket fence from the backyard crashed through a patio door where Gene Schemmel had been standing moments earlier. Both Schemmels were uninjured.

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