By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Pecan Valley housing addition in unincorporated Cleveland County northeast of Lake Thunderbird took the hardest hit in the Norman area as a tornado tracked across the lake Sunday evening.
At the emergency command post set up at the Pecan Valley Junction Store, a convenience store, gas station and pizza outlet, radios buzzed as the Little Axe Fire District worked to coordinate calls on three radio frequencies and multiple assisting agencies.
Emergency responders were going door to door, searching for people. Early reports indicated no fatalities in the Pecan Valley area.
Little Axe Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Doss worked with Oklahoma City, Newalla, Slaughterville and Cedar Country fire districts as well as the Absentee Shawnee Tribal Police.
“We’re getting quite an array of help and support here,” Doss said.
Many Native Americans reportedly live in the area and their homes were hit. The north dance grounds also were damaged.
Officials from Little Axe Fire describe Pecan Valley as a residential housing addition with many lots ranging from a half acre and acre in size at the smallest and housing a fairly dense population. Part of Pecan Valley lies within Oklahoma City limits.
Little Axe firefirefighter Bob Taylor estimated that 80 houses were affected.
Taylor said Sunday’s tornado reminds him of the May 10, 2010, tornado, “when we had the big one.”
“Everybody is trying to work together. Times like this is when everybody sets their differences aside,” Taylor said.
Taylor would know. He lost his house in the wildfires last summer while helping neighbors evacuate.
County road crews and city utility crews came out to help.
“All three districts were out here. As of now, all of the major public thoroughfares are clear of debris,” County Commissioner Darry Stacy said around 9:30 p.m. “We’re still waiting on the power company to get some of the power lines off of the roads.”
District 1 crews were on the scene at Pecan Valley early on.
“We (District 2) initially assisted the city of Norman in those areas affected,” Stacy said. “We had enough crews to head in both directions immediately because all three responded.
While the immediate concern is search and rescue and clearing roads of debris, cleanup will be a lengthy process.
“We’re leaving crews on standby through the night to assist in search and rescue operations,” Stacy said. “We’ll be in the area over the next few days assisting Cleveland County residents with clean up.”
A family on 180th Avenue Northeast north of Franklin missed the worst of the tornado but lost an uninhabited mobile home and had damage to a shed.
“We saw it coming,” Mike Coon said. “We watched it, then we went to the cellar.”
Coon said his family got lucky. Pecan Valley lies just a mile to the northeast.
“My sympathy goes out to the families here that have lost their houses and property. The damage was significant,” Stacy said. “The cooperation between the sheriff’s department and the commissioner’s districts has been excellent.”