FIRST PERSON | MINCO, Okla. — Tuesday started just like any other day at my house. My two sons were awake way too early for any sane person who is on summer break. I would have sold my left foot for another hour of sleep. Tuesday is my husband’s regular day off work, and I was already thankful for this.
I didn’t know how much more relieved I was going to be until nearly 3:45 p.m. when I received a phone call from my dad. It was immediate news to me that there were reports of a tornado on the ground near our tiny little town of Minco, just west of Oklahoma City.
“It looks like it’s going to be a big one,” he said, “It’s a pretty serious situation, so keep track of it, OK?” As a result of some hard luck over the past year or so, we had recently cancelled our satellite television service and had no way of watching the news on TV. Luckily, we still had the Internet and our cell phones to monitor the progress of the storm.
From what I could see, the storm was headed straight for El Reno, located 15 miles north of Minco and close enough that many people from our community depend on it for employment opportunities and weekly (or even daily) grocery shopping. Having lived in Oklahoma for 28 years, my natural concern was how easily the storm’s path could alter before it actually reached El Reno. I knew it wouldn’t take much for it to be right on top of us as well.
According to radar, the storm was heading northeast and was expected to affect the cities of El Reno, Yukon, northern parts of Oklahoma City, Edmond, and Guthrie. My first instinct was to travel south toward I-35 and be out of its path completely. My husband and I loaded our children up in the car in hopes of creating a larger distance between us and what was predicted to be an extremely dangerous tornado.
As we were leaving Minco, the weather reports on the radio began to indicate that there was a second storm system equally as severe moving across the areas south and southwest of us — exactly where we had planned to go. Fortunately, the system north of us seemed to be far enough away that we were clear of any immediate danger. This was when we made the judgment call to return home in hopes that we were far enough north of the southern system yet far enough south of the storm that was wreaking havoc just north of us.
When we returned home, we continued to monitor the storms that were now completely surrounding the sleepy little town of Minco. The idea of trying to leave at this point seemed completely futile.
So, I did what any one in my situation would do: I made sausage gravy. It wasn’t long before the tornado sirens a few blocks from my house began to wail. Although it was considerably loud, I could barely hear it through the wind and the rain.
It was hard to tell from looking at the sky, but it seemed as though the sirens were more of a preemptive warning for us than an indication of an immediate danger. This was confirmed shortly thereafter by the news reports on the computer. While the news was good for my family, it wasn’t as good for the city of Chickasha, directly south of us. By this time, my phone was ringing, dinging, vibrating, and doing everything else those new fan dangled smart phones are built to do. Friends and family from all over had already heard the names of the cities closest to Minco on the news. Reports of tornado related deaths in El Reno had already surfaced, and pictures of destruction in Chickasha were already all over the local news.
I felt a little silly standing in my kitchen, making gravy in the midst of screaming tornado sirens and a barrage of concerned phone calls and messages. Still, I have learned to expect tornado season in Oklahoma every year of my life, so this was practically business as usual. It was all gravy here, so to speak.