Sunday, June 9, 2013

Living in Oklahoma in the Spring

As I am sure everyone has heard, Oklahoma is considered in the Tornado Alley meaning spring time brings one right after another.
And this year has been horrible!
We do not have a cellar nor a safe room.  But, I grew up with one.

My Mother, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles were all in a tornado that literally destroyed the little town of Pryor, Oklahoma on April 27, 1942 at 4:45 p.m.  My Mom was working downtown and was suppose to have her first date with a handsome soldier that night.  But, she didn't make the date and he could not find her that evening.
She was in a second story building working as a secretary and noticed the wind coming up.  She looked out the window and saw a sign from a local café just floating around in the air.  That was the last thing she remembered that day.  She wasn't hurt too badly, but it certainly made an impression on her.

The tornado followed Highway 20 right down the Main Street of Pryor.
My Grandparents lived less than a block off of Main Street and were not injured but had a lot of damage to their home.  I remember Nana telling us of the strange things that happened that day.  Things like it raining little perfectly shaped mud balls with a leaf thru the center of every one. It was like someone had spent weeks making those perfect  little mudballs.
And how the tree had a car bumper completely thru the trunk of it. 
Tornadoes do strange things and are so destructive.  The death toll was 52 and 454 were injured.
Later, the handsome soldier found my Mom and they were married.  When he got out of the service and they bought a house, it had no cellar.  The house they bought was at 20 North Ora.
Behind our home an elderly little lady named Miss Sansing lived.  She had a cellar.  So Dad worked out an arrangement with her that he'd maintain the cellar if we could use it. 
She was thrilled.  Needless to say, everyone in Pryor was a little afraid of black clouds in the sky.
So, Dad cleaned out the cellar and kept it dry.  We had pallets of wood on the floor because when we had a lot of rain, water would seep into the cellar.  They had old coal oil lamps (yes, I am that old) and because of the horror that my Mom and Nana had been thru, we spent many hours in that cellar.

We had cots to sleep on, lamps to do our homework with and lots of good food down there.  I didn't think so at the time, but, it must have been a pretty good sized cellar.
Dad would sit on the steps and watch the clouds.  Occasionally, he would let one of us at a time come up the steps and watch with him.
When John & I moved, I thought my world had come to an end because we could not find a house to buy that had a cellar.  I didn't want a Safe Room, I wanted a cellar in the ground.
But, with all of the storms this year especially, it has brought back so many of those memories of that old cellar.
I've seen tornadoes, but have never been in one.  But, when I think back of all the time we spent in that cellar, it was certainly good but scary, quality family time.

The tornado photos are

Till next time, Judy


  1. I so can relate. I lived in Woodward, Oklahoma for a short time. Gina was born there. In 1947, the entire town was destroyed by tornadoes. The entire town! I met a lady who was a baby during the tornado and they never found out whose child she was. Imagine. I was in two tornados. One was in Duncan and took the kids' swing set from our back yard and set it down in the front yard of our neighbor across the street. In that tornado, a friend of mine had a patio door with grass blades stuck through the glass. I don't have a basement and we actually ran from the last tornado that went through the city a couple of weeks ago. I love your story about your mom and dad and 20 North Ora. Looks like we both made it through the Oklahoma tornado season of 2013. xo
    Cheery wave from

  2. I live in Georgia and although not tornado alley we get our fair share of them in spring. So stressful when the sirens go off!

  3. Judy,
    I bet it is hard to live in that area with so many tornadoes. I bet it is scary when the skies darken. My brother lives in Okla. City and I know they have had a few scary ones. I hope if one comes your way you will be safe.

  4. I would be so scared all the time.

  5. I've never experienced anything like this, Judy. It sounds like the stories from London during the war. Sheltering in the tube during the bombing. Nice and nostalgic when you don't have to live it. I worry about you when I hear the weather reports. J

  6. In 1953, the year before I was born, a tornado swept through my parents end of town, totally destroying the little house Dad was building. My great great uncle was sitting on his porch watching the sky, and wouldn't come in the house. The tornado took him and his rocking chair, they never found him. I've seen pictures that my uncle took, how terrifying. After that, my mother was and still is terrified of storms. I've never seen one, annd never want to. I pray you don't either Judy.

  7. I always thought Illinois and Indiana were Tornado Alley before these last two in your state. I can see why you want a cellar. The pictures from the tornado of '42 are incredible, but I am happy to see a love story come out of it.

    Once I moved to the city, tornadoes became much less. But most of my family is further west in Illinois and it's very flat, most storms produce funnel clouds. A good 20 years ago a tornado touched down in my sister's town. She was driving home from work to pick up her young son and daughter from the neighbor who watched them. All she saw was debris and fire trucks, police cars and EMT's. The babysitters home was gone. Her 3 year old daughter was found in the yard, unharmed. Her 5 year old son was found a good 100 feet away on the slab where the garage had been. He was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition but survived. The kids had been sitting at the kitchen table having a snack when the tornado came through. The little girl next to Jake didn't make it.

    I know there are all sorts of people in Oklahoma who have stories like this that they will never forget. When it really touches your life you do want an escape plan. I truly hope this is the last of the horrific weather for your area, Judy.

    So sorry for the long comment!


  8. Always be safe, Judy. Sometimes we get tornado warnings here! Scares me to death. xo

  9. Where do you go when you have a tornado warning? I hope you at least have a bathroom with no windows! Like Jane (AKA, Blondie), we're known a bit for tornadoes here in IL. We have several warnings during the spring and summer months. It's the one time I'm glad we at least have a basement.

  10. Oh I could share a few stories myself here, but I fear I would write an entire story, yes I am an Okie born and raised and have seen my share of these wild storms!

    I know the story about the one in Woodward! I had many family members in the 1999 tornado in Moore, and the first one this season, took my sisters home, things can be replaced but lives cannot! Thank the Lord she is ok, and well on her way to getting her life back together!
    My hubbies family lost one of it's members to this tornado, and the last group of them that just went through, well we had family scattered all over the place trying to seek shelter! And it did damage at my 91 year old moms place, do not know how they got through it? Then the flooding created even more damage for her!!

    Tornado's are crazy and you just never take for granted in Oklahoma that a black cloud will only hold some rain and thunder!!
    Love your story Judy
    Hubby and I get laughed at for going to the cellar, for not waiting to see if it is going to get here or not??
    we have a cellar next door and my inlaws have one about a mile away from us.

    Hope the worst of the stormy season is behind us this year
    Have a wonderful week

  11. We don't have tornadoes by the shores of Lake Michigan, but I can think of nothing more horrifying.

  12. You never told me that story! Amazing what strange things that tornado can do, isn't it? I grew up with a cellar.

  13. Wow... what a story! Such nostalgia to see those old pictures. Having grown up in Oregon, I've never experienced a tornado, but flooding is the big thing around here. I remember my mom telling me about the big flood in Portland, Oregon in the 40's. The downtown area was totally under water and such destruction. Pictures look similar to your tornado pictures!

    I remember in the 1960's when the great Columbia River flooded! It was amazing to see as I drove down I-84 and could see how the river had come all the way up, close to the freeway. We also have horrific mud slides that wipe out houses and freeways!

    Mother Nature can be so destructive. It is sad and scary when these things happen.

    I love hearing your stories! thank you for sharing them. Marilyn

  14. I have been following you and your blog for awhile and rarely comment even though I think of you more often when I hear of the storms. I am planning to move back to the Midwest soon and must have a basement. I have spent too many days and nights lying on the bathroom floor with my dog when I lived there before. Please get a safe place made for you. Blessings

  15. Oh Judy, I can relate to that. So glad that you are safe.
    I was about 18 or 19 years old living in Northeastern Ohio and I was in one. My leg was cut and I was scared to death and didn't even notice that it was cut open. I was working in a tractor factory and had gone on on the floor with some paper work when it happened. Was a tornado roof and it rolled right up. Fortunately everyone was okay, only me because I was running and fell over something and cut my leg.
    I never want to experience that again. Earthquakes are also scary and we have those.
    Hope you have a safe place in your home. We had a basement at home.
    Maybe they are over with now.
    Be safe.

  16. I grew up in Maryland (was born in the early, early 40s) but never heard of a tornado. My parents home had a cellar, coal furnace and coal bin. It had those radiators that were heated with water running through them.

    I hope you and your family will never, ever experience a tornado hitting your 20 North Ora home. I always think about you and Brenda when I hear about bad weather in your area.

    Maybe John should dig a shelter ?

    Best wishes,
    Charlotte in Va.

  17. I really enjoyed reading your post. I grew up in Woodward, Oklahoma and have so many stories running to the cellar. Definitely made an impressive on this gal to take storms precautions and take cover. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story Judy. I pray for you and all the people of Oklahoma with all the tornados you have had. Stay strong.

  19. Such compelling memories of life in Oklahoma in the spring - that tornado must have been horrendous and a lifetime long memory. I imagine more and more people are thinking of installing safe rooms or storm cellars with all the destruction that has happened this year.


  20. what a scary time that had to be for your mom back in those days. They didn't have much warning for a tornado then. We get tornadoes here too but not to the level that you do. It is a scary thing!

  21. Even though tornadoes were just as destructive then as now or more so maybe, surely first responders are better organized to deal with them now? Are building codes any different now, I wonder, than when your mother was young? How do states that face this devastation plan for better chances for their citizens in the future? Have there been stories in the news recently about this? Will it require public bunkers to shelter more? Kind of like what London had in the Blitz? I hope especially that new schools being built will have something planned for this.

    I wonder that too for our state as far as flooding goes. Places that never used to flood here do now and yet they keep laying down more concrete with no place for runoff water to go, ditches on the side of roads fill in with dirt and debris.



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