Three days after a tornado destroyed homes in Shawnee, Dale and Bethel Acres, Jodi Warrior, while digging through the debris and rubble, found something she could have never replaced — her children's baby books.
The tornado, believed to be an EF4, leveled homes in the Steelman Estates mobile home park on SH 102 and Independence, where Warrior and her family lived.
While sifting through the debris, she's managed to save a few personal belongings, but found her children's clothes were full of debris and insulation.
But it was the priceless — and often irreplaceable treasures — that she sought, and luckily she found some of them.
"I was so excited…we did find a little box of pictures," she said, adding she also found some other family photos amongst the debris. She also discovered two of her three children's baby books, she said.
Amongst all the debris she stumbled upon another family treasure — a water canteen her grandfather used while serving in World War I.
"It's the one thing I've showed everybody," she said.
Warrior, who said she wants to thank all those who have donated their time, prayers or items, said it's been a tremendous help for her and so many others affected by this storm.
And sometimes, she said, it's just the little things people have given them that can make a difference — a sandwich, a toothbrush.
As they dug out their mementoes, volunteers came by with bottles of cold water and chicken sandwiches.
"We devoured them," she said, thankful for all those lending a hand.
Her niece, Dakota Miranda, lived next door and also lost her home. Miranda, while sifting through the remnants of her home, also found her child's baby book, she said, but more importantly, she uncovered a file of birth certificates and other important papers.
Over in areas northeast of Interstate 40 and U.S. 177, residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed, also are continuing cleanup.
Lonnie and Connie Greenlee, whose home was damaged, are in the midst of cleaning up debris at their home on Garrett's Lake Road.
"It's pretty overwhelming," Connie Greenlee said Wednesday, as those efforts continued.
Initially they didn't think their home had too much damage, but they have discovered so much more and found they need a new roof.
"It's just a mess," she said, but added that volunteers from near and far have been through the neighborhood to lend a hand.
"People are good…people really do care about each other," Connie said. "Until you go through something like this, you don't know that people really do care."
Page 2 of 3 - As the long process of cleaning up continues, Connie said they are finding items that are likely treasures of others. She said she's found 10-12 family photographs of someone's family, and she found her neighbor's Bible in their swimming pool.
Ken and Sue Hasbell, who lost the roof of their home across the street, have been busy emptying out their belongings from the roofless home.
"We're thankful for what was left," Sue said. "No one was hurt — we are blessed…so many lost everything."
Sue, who said they've had help clearing downed trees and other debris, said, "we still have a long way's to go."
In the Sunset Heights addition off U.S. 177, Shannon Hester is still helping in her neighborhood. Although her house was spared, her neighbors weren't so lucky as that area was hit hard.
She said volunteers from churches and so many different organizations, even individuals are stopping by to help.
"It is amazing," she said. "It's a neat blessing."
The latest assessments for Pottawatomie County indicate 93 homes were destroyed Sunday, while 82 structures sustained minor damage and 31 have major damage.
The tornado that rumbled through late Sunday afternoon touched down west of Shawnee Twin Lakes and carved a northeastern path over to U.S. 177 and Interstate 40 and continued north-northeast from there.
Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said Wednesday that everyone is being inundated with calls offering assistance.
"We appreciate the generosity of people," Lynch said.
Since this is a Presidentially declared disaster, Lynch said the State, Federal, and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters have put a system in place to coordinate needs and match them with people who can help.
Lynch said people who need help should call 2-1-1 or 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
People who want to help should register online at www.okstrong.ok.gov; www.unitedwayokc.org; or www.redcross.org.
On Monday, President Obama declared a major disaster for the State of Oklahoma, making federal funding available to support affected individuals, as well as additional federal assistance to support immediate response and recovery efforts. Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (providing federal assistance to support emergency work) is available for the following counties: Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie.
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in these affected areas are encouraged to apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. Disaster assistance applicants who use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.
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