Claremore Daily Progress

May 23, 2013

Residents return to devastated homes

Jessica Bruha
CNHI

CLAREMORE —

Sparks of joy lit up grief-stricken eyes from time to time on Wednesday after Moore residents were allowed back into their neighborhoods for the first time after Monday’s EF-5 tornado devastated much of the city.
For Rachel Hernadez, who lives near SE 4th Street and Bryant Avenue, some of that joy was given back to her after a Cleveland County work crew was able to dig a dresser holding family photos out from underneath the rubble that was once her home.
“I had the last picture of my grandma from when she was 17. I just found it last year,” Hernadez said. 
“I had an entire collection of family photos in that dresser.”
She also was able to salvage a German antique pot which put a smile on her face as well.
“I was pulling out stuff that didn’t even belong to me earlier,” she said.
Some residents didn’t have to wait until Wednesday to see the catastrophic scene the tornado left their neighborhood in.
Matt Claxton and his wife, Heather, watched the storm develop on television and outside until they saw on a social media site the storm was behind the Moore Warren Theater. They ran to a shelter minutes before the deadly twister wiped out their neighborhood.
“We grabbed what we could and ran to a shelter. When we walked out it looked like a war zone was here,” Claxton said. 
“We were just feeling so useless.”
Then they saw their house. He said at that point they were just thankful to be alive.
“It’s just stuff. We’re going to try to salvage what we can though,” he said.
As Claxton stood in his driveway on Wednesday looking around at all of the destroyed homes, which was a view that seemed to stretch for miles, he said it was tough.
“I don’t want to see anymore of Moore,” he said. “Just looking at this is tough.”
Other residents felt lucky that their loved ones were able to “miraculously” avoid the tornado by a simple mistake.
Katrina Withey’s daughter, Kyla, accidentally locked herself out of their rent house on Monday. Withey said Kyla’s dad ended up picking the children up to take them back to work with him before the weather got bad.
Kyla and her little brother would have been at home when the tornado struck if Kyla hadn’t forgotten her key, Withey said.
“It seems like there’s so many things that led up to the miraculous fact that we’re alive and not injured,” she said.
Whenever they returned to their home, she also said it looked like a war zone.
“It was like an explosion just obliterated everything,” Withey said.
While they were only renting their home, Withey said she hopes if the home is rebuilt, it will be rebuilt with a storm shelter.
All of the families — Hernadez, Claxton and Withey said they plan on continuing to live in Moore. However, one family wasn’t quite so sure about where they would be living next.
Chris and Renae King said after two tornadoes, they’re not sure if they want to continue living in Moore. But, they do love it, they said.
The couple also was renting their home in the neighborhood near SE 4th Street and Bryant Avenue. Renae was persuaded by Chris and her family to leave the home and go to her mom’s house since the storm was getting bad.
After the storm she returned to check on the house immediately after.
“As I walked closer I said, ‘I think it got us. Yep, the roof is gone,” Renae said. “Then my dog went in and was smart enough to find a rawhide bone under all of the rubble.”
It was a good thing she did leave the home Chris said, because a fridge came through their bedroom wall and the walls and roof over the kitchen were for the most part, gone.
“We were going for more of an open concept,” Renae said with a laugh regarding the roof and walls. Her sense of humor on Wednesday overrode the devastation they were surrounded by as they loaded up some salvaged items before the day ended.