20 Years Later, Catoosa Tornado Survivor Recounts Experience
CATOOSA, Oklahoma - Twenty years ago, a tornado took aim at Catoosa.
Seven people were killed on April 24, 1993, when a powerful tornado hit Interstate 44, near what was then Bruce's Truck Plaza.
The storm came before the advanced warnings we have now, and it hit a spot where people are still vulnerable, while driving down the highway.
It's a storm that many people have forgotten, but not those who lived through it.
Fred Lowry is a 75-year-old Navy veteran, who never came as close to dying as he did on April 24, 20 years ago.
"In a way, it just kind of changed my whole outlook on life," Lowry said.
Today, he's a volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce, who says he's never had a bad day. Back then, he didn't know whether or not he'd get another day to remember.
"It brings back some memories today I haven't thought about in a while, and I'm so fortunate to go through something like that without a scratch on me," Lowry said.
The powerful tornado swept across I-44 on the west side of Catoosa. Seven people were killed in all, including four members of one family from Chicago, who were just passing through. The storm crushed Bruce's Truck Plaza and rolled loaded semis over cars and buildings.
Dozens of people found shelter inside the truck stop, including Fred Lowry.
He was about to get on the highway when a wall cloud dropped down right in front of him.
"The destruction that we saw that night was almost unbelievable. Cars upside down, school buses, tractor trailers," Lowry said.
The tornado hit late on a Saturday afternoon. The truck stop was just mid-way through a six-mile long path of destruction.
It was actually two tornadoes that hit the high school, leaving major damage and a neighborhood, where 45 homes were destroyed and many more were damaged.
Several hundred people were hurt--94 of them injured enough to need hospitalization.
The scars on the town are mostly gone; the sign posts from Bruce's are the only sign of the old truck stop, and there's a small memorial outside to honor the victims.
It was 20 years ago for most of us, but not for the survivors.
"[It's] like it happened yesterday almost," Lowry said.
The tornadic storm caused so much damage at Bruce's, because the two tornadoes essentially formed on top of each other and hit the same place twice within seconds.