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Gone with the Wind

Local family fi nds hope in the face of adversity By Elaine Warner

“I’m slightly phobic about storms to begin with,” she says, “and I’m always amazed at how everyone just seems to take them in stride.”


Friends even laughed when she and her husband, Mike, installed a tornado shelter in their garage. How- ever, those friends are no longer laughing. The morning of May 10, 2010, was unusual, Debby says. “There was dense fog and it was very warm and very still. It looked grim and kind of eerie.” Debby was upstairs in her loft studio; Mike was in the kitchen making bagels and watching the radar on his computer. At that time, the Kasparis were Okla- homa Electric Co-op members, living in the country east of Norman, far from tornado sirens. The alarm on their weather radio kept going off, fi rst indicating watches, then the warning.

Debby grabbed her purse and her cat, Gizmo, and she and Mike got into the storm shelter. Debby con- tinues, “This is one of those garage-fl oor metal boxes.” Mike closed the lid, and Debby’s cell phone rang. “It was a friend of ours, Tim Ryan, who was in Barcelo- na. He was following the weather on Twitter. He was shouting, ‘Get in your shelter now; you’re in terrible danger.’” Debby assured him they were fi ne but cut the call short as the weather radio broadcast an update. “Right after that, we heard a sound,” she says. “It started out like a peal of thunder but it didn’t rumble,


ebby Kaspari is not a native Oklahoman and is not accustomed to the regular reports of storm watches and warnings.

it just got louder, steadily louder and louder— kind of like a loud hum. I knew we were really in trouble. I grabbed onto the beams of the shelter, and all hell broke loose.

“It was like being in a huge Mixmaster. Incred-

ibly violent and incredibly loud. My ears kept popping over and over; the pressure dropped so far, I thought my head was going to explode. Then we could hear things breaking and crunch- ing. Things banged off the lid. It was about 30 seconds of utter insanity going on within inches of our heads.

“The box we were in was about four feet by eight feet. It was vibrating and shaking, and I thought it was going to get pulled out of the ground. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. My ears were just popping; then there was one really loud pop and it was calm. The moment that happened I got a violent headache, which didn’t go away for two or three weeks. “The air got still, and all this brown powder began

Former Oklahoma Electric Co-op members Mike and Debbie Kaspari’s home was destroyed in May 2010 after a ravaging tornado. The Kasparis, who were overwhelmed with the support they received from the community, are doing well and rebuilding their lives.

“Our house was a pile; there were no walls stand- ing. Both of our cars were destroyed. We just walked around in shock.”

sift ing down on us, coming through the vents and the cracks of the shelter box. That was shredded insula- tion from the house, mixed with bits of wallboard, brok- en glass and shredded leaves. After a few moments, I looked out through the vent screens, and where there had once been a garage roof was blue sky. I said, ‘Mike, the house is gone.’”

The Kasparis climbed out of the shelter and into a new reality.

The house had been surrounded by tall, old oak trees, which were snapped off and fell into the house. The former two-story home was compacted into a pile less than one story high; the garage had blown away completely.

Once notice went out, help started pouring in. “An interesting thing happens when you say, ‘I just lost everything in a tornado. Can you help us?’ People Continued on page 32

Photo by Tim Ryan

Courtesy Photo Courtesy Photo

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