First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!
SO! We had a lot of tornadoes in Oklahoma on Tuesday!!! Let me tell you the story!!!
It was Tuesday, and the leaders of the mission and a few others were in Moore, OK for a leadership training meeting at the stake center there. The meeting was going well, and then in the early afternoon, President Taylor was talking to us, stopped, and told everyone to get ahold of all of the missionaries in the mission. A big storm was on the way from the west. As missionaries were doing that, President Taylor had his phone out and showed myself and a couple other missionaries what the radar looked like through Oklahoma. Basically, it was a line of storms running north and south through Oklahoma, moving from the west to the east (basically, it was sweeping Oklahoma from left to right, with tornadoes and stuff along the way). Once all of the missionaries in the mission were accounted for, we all knelt together and President Taylor offered a prayer.
After continuing the meeting for another 10 or 15 minutes, President Taylor said, "We need everyone to get in the hall." We all filed out of the chapel into the hall next to the restrooms. The storm was headed our way. There was a reported tornado touchdown a few miles away from the stake center and if the storm continued it's course, it'd plow right into the stake center. We all went into the girls bathroom (the safest place in a stake center (who would've thought?!)) and waited. It was a pretty good time! We were all talking and coming up with possible outcomes of our situation. After about 10 minutes, we were allowed to go back into the hall. It was around dinner time and thankfully, the Mazios guy showed up with our pizza!!! I tell you what: if you ever want pizza in an environment full of tornadoes, call Mazios! They are hardcore about their pizza!!!!
We all sat in the hall and ate pizza as President and Sister Taylor and the Assistants to the President were in the lobby, monitoring what the storm was like outside while listening to a storm radio. We were allowed to go 2 at a time to the lobby to see what the storm was like. As I was standing near the hall at the edge of the lobby, I looked outside and watched the rain come down. The storm seemed to have weakened and there wasn't a whole lot of rain coming down. Suddenly, as we watched through the lobby doors, sheets and sheets of rain started pouring down and sideways. President Taylor yelled, "Everyone get in the bathroom NOW!!"
We all got in the bathroom and waited. I was standing next to President Taylor and Elder Ellsworth (one of the Assistants to the President). Elder Ellsworth was holding the storm radio while President Taylor was looking at his phone. The storm was right over us. If a tornado would have formed, it would've been a bad day. We stayed in the bathroom, listening to the chatter on the storm radio. It was a little unnerving, listening to the radio. There were a couple of weather people giving the updates on all of the areas. I remember vividly one of them saying, "Paul's Valley. Paul's Valley. We have a tornado warning for Paul's Valley. Abandon all trailer homes. Seek shelter now." (P.S. a tornado watch means there's possibility of a tornado forming; a tornado warning means one has already been sighted). I remember thinking, "We have missionaries is Paul's Valley!" Thankfully, all of the missionaries were in shelter and okay.
After the storm settled, we were allowed to go back into the hall. A little bit later, the "all clear" was given for Moore. We ended the meeting a little early and President Taylor gave us the instructions for helping people out (doing tornado service). Everyone got gloves for all of the missionaries in the mission and then we headed home. Norman wasn't hit, thankfully. Supposedly, there's a tale that a long time ago, a Native American man buried a hatchet and blessed the land against tornadoes. There's also a river near here, so that helps too.
All of this happened on Tuesday, and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we went to Newcastle, OK to help clean up. There were some houses that had good chunks of their roof completely gone. One family we helped had a trailer that was completely demolished (see attached pictures). There were HUGE trees that were uprooted and tossed around. When I saw the trees, that's when it hit me. I thought, "Wind did this?" It's mindblowing that the sheer force from powerful wind could completely uproot a 75-100 foot tall tree. The wife of the family who had the trailer; she was still in a little bit of shock. We asked how we could help. She had a hard time specifying what she wanted cleaned up immediately, so we just helped pick up the wood from the frame of their trailer and really big branches and things. She wanted to wait to sort out the belongings that she still had. It was sad.
Another time, we were at the city tornado shelter where the Red Cross was stationed with food and things for the people who were affected by the tornadoes. We had just finished up for the day and were walking outside when a lady with a large, black garbage bag was walking outside. She looked worn out, so we helped her with her things. Some old guy, not knowing the whole situation or spending time to evaluate it himself, jokingly remarked with a wink, "Ah, you don't have to spoil her!" As we walked outside, she said, "My house just got leveled. I think it's okay if I get spoiled a little bit right now."
And so, the Norman Stake has organized service projects for the Newcastle/Blanchard area and we will be going out again this Saturday to help again.
I'm glad the gospel is here. I'm glad the Church is here. Priesthood leadership is so awesome! In behalf of anyone and everyone here in Oklahoma, thanks for your prayers and good wishes.
And God bless America!!!!
The first people we helped on Thursday got hit pretty bad.
This is/was the trailer we were helping pick up. Off to the left (outside of the picture) the family was sleeping in a tent. All of the boards and things in the picture are from the trailer. Where the trailer stood, there is only torn up cement, nothing else.
That's what it looks like when a tornado goes through.
Bad focus on the pic, but these are some of the trees that were uprooted