Living in the country is what Tony Breon said he is going to miss most after an approximately mile wide wedge tornado destroyed his home and farm on Thursday evening.
“When it [the tornado] come over the hill up there is when I left. I walked out of the house and stood at the back of the pickup and lit a cigarette, took two drags off of it and said I gotta get out’a here,” Breon recalled. “I was just on this hill at that other house. [pointing to the west] When I turned the corner there and the rain got pretty bad by the time I got up there. I couldn’t see that it took the house, but I knew it did.”
Terri Wheeler watched and videoed the tornado from her house about five miles southeast of the Breon farm, which is located in Ellis County.
“We didn't know exactly which direction it was coming from,” Wheeler said. ”It had already gone past us. And that's when we started filming it. So I'm pretty sure we were probably filming it, there towards the end is about where Tony’s house is.”
Wheeler said this is the second tornado she’s seen and she would much rather have them come through during daylight when they are easier to spot. She did go to the cellar until she and her husband were sure it was past their home.
“It was pretty big,” Wheeler said. “It looked massive.”
Breon’s wife, Kaye, was not home when the tornado hit. As she took pictures of the rubble and answered calls from concerned friends and family, Tony picked through rubble with his cane and greeted neighbors coming to help.
Kaye said it’s been a struggle living in the country with Tony’s declining health.
“She’s been wanting me to move, and I wouldn’t move,” Breon shared trying to shrug off emotion. “The sheds and stuff I built, so it wasn’t no big deal.”
Breon’s family was spread out over the surrounding pasture land picking up pieces; partial photo albums and items of clothing strung amongst rubble.
Already friends have donated clothes and were scrambling to help find necessary medications. Kaye said a pastor from a local church had already called assuring her relief is on the way.
Meanwhile Northwestern Electric crews were working to get wires off the road and out of the way Friday morning.
Northwestern Electric Cooperative Spokeswoman Jonna Hensley said they had 17 three-phase and eight single-phase poles down and Western Farmers Electric had four poles down. During the storm 425 meters were down, a lot of which are for farm and ranch watering.
Hensley said all available crews were working to get everything repaired as soon as possible.
Dan O’Hair’s home had a near miss. Only about a half mile from the Breon farm, neighbors turned out to help O’Hair catch a cow that had been injured so she could be taken to the veterinarian.
O’Hair said he had miles of fence down and cows all over the country, but the house is still standing.
Member of the Slapout Volunteer Fire Department Susan Shrum lives just right down the road from the Speermoore Cemetery in Harper County. She was not home at the time the tornado hit, but was waiting at the fire station to be called out.
“I was told it was a mile and a half wide. Missed my place by a hundred yards,” Shrum said as she looked about the cemetery at the devastation. “This is crazy.”
Shrum said the Slapout Fire Department was called out around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Thursday night. She was very glad no lives were lost, but was still concerned for the safety of area residents.
“If you see power lines down, do not cross them. If you see power poles down, stay away from them," she said. "Call the sheriff's department."
According to Harper County Sheriff Cliff Brinson other than some outbuildings there was no other major damage and no known injuries called in from the storm system.