10th Anniversary Of Deadly Tornado Outbreak

Sunday, May 3rd 2009, 9:38 am
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Ten years ago, severe weather spawned 66 tornadoes that killed 36 people and destroyed more than 2,300 homes.  The fatalities and most of the devastation occurred near Oklahoma City, but a twister did destroy a Tulsa Church.

The congregation at the Carbondale Assembly of God vividly remembers that day a decade ago, and says while it was devastating at the time; the tornado eventually brought them closer together.

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The tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, killed dozens and nearly leveled the towns of Moore and Stroud.  When the storm system made its way up the turnpike, it spawned a twister that headed right for the Carbondale Assembly of God.

"I remember that night hearing the sirens and everything, and a few minutes later we got a call that our church had been hit," said church member Ruth Dunn.

When the skies cleared and the damage was assessed, it totaled an estimated $3.5 million.  The roof was torn off, much of the building's second floor was gone and the congregation was homeless.

"Just the visual impact of knowing it was never going to be the same. Things were going to change," said Associate Pastor Mike Atkinson.

"It was heart-wrenching.  But knowing what nature tears down, God can build back up. And, he did," said church member Evelyn Richmond.

Carbondale Assembly spent the next 18 months worshipping at Victory Christian, before returning to a bigger, and they say better church.       

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On Sunday, the congregation marked the ominous anniversary with a video and some reminiscing, especially about the assistance they received from the community.

"In that moment, there's so many people that band together to help us in our time of need," said church member Ruth Dunn.

Carbondale has plenty of new members who didn't experience the tornado or its aftermath.  But, those who lived through it now view May 3rd as a blessing in disguise.

"We came a lot closer, lot stronger after the tornado," said church member Evelyn Richmond.

"When you face a challenge like that, it binds you together.  So, we have relationships now that we probably never would have had we not experienced that together," added Associate Pastor Mike Atkinson.

Seven people were inside Carbondale Assembly of God when the tornado struck.  All of them managed to escape without injury.