Tornado Week: Falcon Lake Recovering

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PIEDMONT, Okla. — The images of May 24, 2011 are almost unforgettable.

The EF-5 tornado that hit that day was a half-mile wide.

Ten people lost their lives, including two children who lived in the Falcon Lake neighborhood near Piedmont.

The devastation to Falcon Lake was heart-breaking.

The neighborhood is more than 30 years old.

It started with just a few homes and blossomed into a beautiful neighborhood for about 30 families.

It has been a year of rebuilding for many of the neighbors in Falcon Lake.

But, “recovery” is a tricky word at Falcon Lake; not everyone is coming back.

The Hamil family, who lost their two little boys to the tornado, are not returning to Falcon Lake.

Also, the family on whose property one of the boys was found is not returning.

Craig and Jacki Richards have spent the better part of a year re-building their home.

Craig Richards remembers May 24 very well, “Where the tornado hit you could see the devastation and on the other side of the house it was so unusual. The rock (from the facade) was just laying on the ground like it had sucked it off.”

The tornado ripped off all the bedroom doors; it took all of the furniture and stirred it up like a blender.

The Richards rode out the storm in a neighbor’s cellar.

They lived with family for 10 months while they rebuilt their home.

Jacki Richards said the experience has brought the neighborhood closer together, “We’re all real close. We’re on a waiting list for a storm shelter. So, my next-door neighbor gave me a key to her home. If there’s a tornado before we get ours built, she invited us just to come on over. All of us are very supportive of each other and we have a much closer neighborhood now. We really do.”

One-by-one, moving trucks park along the two cul-de-sacs of Falcon Lake.

It will be a fresh start for most.

The damage along the lakefront is still a reminder of what was lost, what will grow back and what will never be the same.

There have also been some surprises along the way.

The neighborhood swan didn’t make it through the storm but the geese did, affectionately nick-named Fred and Ethel; the couple returned.

Jacki Richard said as she watched the goose nest, “Ethel’s back and there’s going to be a little baby.”

This spring will bring new life to Falcon Lake.

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