Two Years Since Deadly Tornado Hit Tushka - - No One Gets You Closer

Two Years Since Deadly Tornado Hit Tushka


TUSHKA, OK -- It has been nearly two years since a deadly tornado hit Atoka County. Many have long since repaired the damage or bought a new home, but the memory of that day is hard for some people to forget.

The storm hit on April 14, 2011, two years ago this Sunday. Some residents clearly remember the evening when the tornado came.

"It was the last siren that they gave, and it was just swirling and I remember that low like a freight train sound and that's when I went on down in the hole," says resident Bob Settlemiers.

"It took off half of the add on part the roof and a lot of the siding and this is the only tree that was left," says resident Paula Westfall.

Westfall's home was damaged, but her landlord built a new one. It was just across the street that two elderly sisters died in a mobile home.

Next to the school, which is making do with temporary quarters, Linda Combest spent more than an hour in a storm cellar that night, when the trees crashed down over the door.

"I don't think we'll ever get over it, you know losing what we had, I'd been here 40 years and it took it down within a few minutes," says resident Linda Combest.

The school does not plan to use the portable buildings for much longer. A new K-12 school building is now under construction on West Boggy Depot Road and it is expected to be complete by December.

"A lot of the things that we've learned through this tragedy, we've applied to our new facility, you know we have safe rooms in every area," says high school principal Matt Simpson.

"I purchased a new home and I recently sold it and bought another one, so I've kind of been in limbo for the past two years," says math teacher Deneice Hill, whose house was destroyed.

The tornado recovery committee ACTOR is marking the storm's second anniversary with good news. "Last week we spent the last of the money and the committee is not necessarily disbanded but it's put in recess," says chairman Merritt Taylor.

The committee distributed about $500,000 from a Reba McEntire-Blake Shelton concert and $70,000 in church donations to house repair projects, helping about 100 families, Taylor said. Some 1,000 volunteers also helped Tushka recover.

ACTOR will be holding a dinner to remember the second anniversary on Saturday at 5 p.m. the First Baptist Church in Atoka. On Sunday afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m., there will be an open house at the new school site in Tushka.