The Norman Transcript

May 23, 2013

Oklahoma visitor had brush with tornado’s fury

By Dale Denwalt
The Norman Transcript

MOORE — Tim Lawrence was just in town to visit his family, but he had to huddle close with them in a storm cellar Monday afternoon as the tornado swept through the neighborhood.

The Portsmouth, Ohio, man was at his brother’s house when the menace came barreling toward Moore. Lawrence’s father had been warned to take cover, but they eventually decided to drive to the home near 19th Street and Santa Fe Avenue.

Lawrence said the idea came from his brother’s wife.

“He let her talk him into doing the stupidest thing he’s ever done. He started driving toward the tornado,” Lawrence said.

They arrived just in time to hustle down to the shelter.

“He took one last look out the door of that cellar, and closed the door and hooked it,” Lawrence said. “We feared for our lives after that because it went right over us.”

He said his father’s house was devastated, and that it is too damaged for recovery.

“We had to fight our way out of the house. A tree fell over the door and it took both of us, everything we had to get out of there,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, his brother and his sister-in-law were among dozens walking along 19th Street, dazed at what they saw. Along the north side of the road were the remains of Briarwood Elementary School.

“We heard about this and wanted to come take a look,” Lawrence said.

He said he’s never seen anything like that before.

“And I don’t intend to see it again,” he said.

Wayne Kerr also lives in one of the damaged neighborhoods nearby. After a day without electricity or water, he decided to take a walk, too.

“We just wanted to get out. We were tired of sitting there,” he said, as he walked alongside Terry Smelik.

They barely missed the tornado by driving south, away from its path.

“When we got home yesterday afternoon, we didn’t know the school had been messed up. We had no electricity. We didn’t have the radio on or nothing,” Kerr said as he looked across the street to the heaped remains of Briarwood. “It’s just a shame to see all this destruction.”