Deadly tornadoes rip through four states

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 5/21/2013

A truck driver is lucky to be alive after his tractor-trailer was picked up by a tornado while parked on an overpass and slammed 50 feet onto the ground below.

Chris Blair, co-owner of Blair Transport of Paintsville, KY, told “Land Line Now” that one of his drivers, Steve Everett, 44, of Lexington, KY, sustained serious injuries after a tornado, which touched down near Shawnee, OK, blew his rig (with him inside) off the bridge on Interstate 40.

Everett’s tractor-trailer was equipped with a GPS tracking device on it. Blair said he and others tried to warn the driver of bad weather when he was about 135 miles from Shawnee, but that their phone calls did not reach Everett in time.

“We don’t know if the cell phone towers were down, don’t know if the power was out, but Steve indicated that he didn’t get a call from us. We sat there and pretty well watched him drive into it.”

On Sunday, May 19, as many as 26 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, killing two people.

Blair said Everett sustained a hip fracture, as well as possible broken vertebrae in his back, which have caused him to be paralyzed. 

“The nurse said he will need surgeries to regain his ability to walk,” Blair said.

A two-mile-wide tornado tore through Moore, OK, on Monday, May 20. The tornado decimated two elementary schools, including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died, and Briarwood Elementary.

Mike Betts, an OOIDA member from Moore, OK, told Land Line he was in Hutchinson, KS, when he heard the news that tornado warnings had been issued for his hometown.

“I talked to my wife, and she said she was taking the dogs and heading for the shelter. Then I didn’t hear from her for another three hours because we lost cellphone reception,” Betts said. “That’s when I started to worry because I was five hours away. I started wondering if I should turn back. What a helpless feeling.”

Earlier that morning Betts said he left Moore, passing by the Moore Medical Center, which sustained heavy damage, and the schools which were destroyed, all a few miles from his home on his way to Milwaukee, WI, to see his daughter.

“The part I hate about this part of the country is the doggone weather,” Betts said.

About three hours after the tornado struck Betts said he started receiving calls from family and friends that his wife, who lives about two miles from the tornado’s path, his kids and grandkids were all OK.

“We have friends who have been impacted, but at this point, I don’t know the full extent,” he said.

Pat Murray, an OOIDA member from Moore, OK, said the tornado touched down about a mile and a-half from his house, but said thankfully his family was uninjured.

“I still haven’t heard from some of my friends because of cell service being down, but my family is fine,” Murray told Land Line on Tuesday, May 21. “All anybody can do is pray because it’s just pure devastation there.”

The American Red Cross is encouraging those who have been affected by the devastating tornado in Moore to register on the Safe and Well list to let family and friends know they are OK.

Reed Black, “Land Line Now” staff reporter, contributed to this story.

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