‘It’s a new beginning,’ Residents reflect on devastating storms one year later

BETHEL ACRES, Okla. – It’s been a year since a deadly tornado passed through several Oklahoma towns, including those in Pottawatomie and Cleveland counties.

On May 19, 2013, the  EF-4 tornado tore through Steelman Estates, destroying dozens of homes and turning memories into debris.

Sherrie Starner, who lost her home in the terrible storm, said, “My whole world went upside down. It’s hard to describe, you go through a lot of emotions. You’re glad that you’re okay and it’s just hard to describe.”

The deadly tornado tore through the community, taking the lives of Glen Irish,79, and Billy Hutchinson,76.

Starner says “We had two men who lost their lives because they had no place to go. They rode it out in their home and that shouldn’t have been.”

Clayton Cook says he still struggles with the loss.

Cook said, “Throughout the year it’s been really rough, you know realizing everything’s gone.”

Now they are in the process of rebuilding and there is a silver lining in the dark clouds that once stormed over the neighborhood.

Cook said, “They’ve been bringing in storm shelters, putting them on home owner association property, to where they are community shelters so everyone will have a place to go, if this ever happens again.”

Cook says they’ve installed eight community shelters which will fit about 80 people.

Cook believes the shelters were a good investment.

Cook said, “That will be a life saver, someday I’m sure.”


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