COLUMBIA — On Monday, an EF5 tornado with wind speeds of more than 200 mph swept through Moore, Okla., killing at least 24 people and injuring hundreds. One current MU student and one recent graduate shared how the tornado affected them.
Missouri baseball player Jace James was in Hoover, Ala., for a tournament when he got a disturbing text from his dad: A tornado had just ripped through a suburb of Oklahoma City, his hometown.
The text came at about 3 p.m., while the team was practicing for the 2013 SEC tournament, which began Tuesday. That was the last James heard from his father for five hours.
The tornado knocked out land lines and slowed down cell networks, according to The Associated Press. James said he tried to get in touch with his family, with no success.
"I couldn’t get a hold of anybody," James said. "I was freaking out."
He watched footage of the destruction on YouTube. He recognized the partially damaged Warren Theatre, which had become a makeshift triage center.
By 8 p.m., James got back in touch with his friends and family and learned they were safe. The tornado destroyed three friends’ homes, but none of his friends were killed.
“I have a lot of friends who grew up and live in Moore,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t lose anybody.”
He said even though tornadoes frequently touch down in Oklahoma, they rarely become so monstrous.
“We obviously get a lot of tornadoes, but we don’t get a lot of them like that,” James said. “If you’re not below ground, you’re not gonna make it.”
Kristina Houser graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism on May 17. By Monday, she was packed and ready to drive south to her hometown of Austin, Texas.
She was traveling with her father, who had been checking the weather the night before. The two left Columbia early Monday morning, trying to outrun the storm.
They stopped north of Oklahoma City for lunch when they turned on the radio and heard the weather was getting worse.
“We just didn’t expect how bad it was,” she said.
As they drove south on Interstate 35, Houser said the sky boiled with black clouds behind them. Although high winds whipped around the car, Houser was surprised to see no rain or hail.
She remembers passing Moore, Okla., because of its water tower.
“I remember laughing because it has a really big ‘Home of Toby Keith’ on it,” she said.
Houser did not know how severe the tornado was until she and her father were far enough south of Oklahoma City to leave the radio station they had been listening to behind. Then she checked her phone and saw the destruction they barely missed.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we’d been there 10 minutes later,” she said.
Do you have ties to Oklahoma City? To share your thoughts or experiences about Monday's tornado, email news@ColumbiaMissourian.com or call 573-882-5720.