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One block: How neighbors saw twister's deadly path

By Allen G. Breed

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:27 p.m. MDT

She was talking on the phone with Darrin, who was up in Norman inspecting some jobs, when she heard the announcer on his truck radio say the storm was at 149th and Pennsylvania Avenue — just up the street. She looked up and saw a wall of debris.

"Get in there," her husband shouted.

Her "weenie dog," Hoss, was already in the shelter. She scooped up Cheerios, the couple's pit bull, and sprinted for safety.

As the wind screamed around her, she struggled with the bulkhead door, turning the handle while the locking mechanism was still caught on the outer lip.

"I don't know how to do this," she shouted to herself.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she managed to secure the door. About a minute later, the storm struck.

Next door, at 1313 SW 149th, Wayne and Patricia Osmus had an 8-foot-square concrete shelter beside their swimming pool. But it would do their family little good.

When the storm hit, Wayne Osmus was downtown at the auto parts store where he works. So it fell to his 42-year-old son, Mark Metz, to get his mother and disabled uncle, Jack Young, 50, into the bunker.

Patricia Osmus, 67, lame in both hips from operations several years ago, was struggling to get Young outside. But the wind pressure was so great that Metz couldn't open the metal door.

The three retreated to a designated safe room — a tiny linen closet at the center of the brick house.

Nearby, Gene and Colleen Perdue, 69 and 68, were facing a similar choice.

Like the Osmuses, the couple had a shelter. They'd installed it 39 years ago, when they built their three-bedroom brick home at 1409 SW 149th.

They'd been meaning to update it, but just never seemed to get around to it. When they finally needed it, they realized the rusted fastenings would be no match for the winds.

They hurried through the oak-floored kitchen and formal family room to a 4-by-4-foot bedroom closet and covered their heads with a blanket. They listened as the ceilings were sucked up, one by one, until they heard the one above their heads begin to peel away.

"Well," Gene Perdue said, turning to his wife. "This is it."

Oilfield parts supply salesman Scott Shelton was at work when he learned of the storm's path. When he couldn't get through to Angie, he jumped in his vehicle and sped home.

When he reached the area, police were already blocking off access. He met Max Garland, who was trying to get to his parents.

The two men picked their way along back roads. When they finally reached their block an hour later, they were amazed to see everyone sitting in the Garlands' driveway, dazed but unhurt.

Shelton hugged his wife and son in mute relief. The Garlands' home was gone but for a tiny section of the front wall; the storm had ripped the vent covers from the shelter, but could not gain entry.

It would take three hours for Wayne Osmus to make it back home.

His roof had been sheared off, and the back wall was collapsed inward. Miraculously, everyone was safe, but two of his dogs were badly injured.

Buster, the 18-year-old pit-chow mix who'd kept Osmus company at the custom wheel shop he used to own, was not so lucky. Osmus found his lifeless body lying nearby under a pile of brush, his eyes and nose caked with grit, his brown coat matted with vegetation.

The Perdues emerged from their blanket to find their 2,100-square-foot house in shambles around them. But they, too, were unharmed.

The storm had torn off part of Jann's roof and pushed a box truck 50 feet across the yard. The horse barn was demolished, but the three animals inside survived largely unscathed.

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