TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Members of Team Tinker are picking up the pieces after one of the largest and most costly tornadoes in history ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, Monday May 20, 2013.
In the 507th Air Refueling Wing alone, more than 20 Airmen and their families suffered either minor damage or a total loss after Monday afternoon's deadly storm passed.
Master Sgt. John Prokup, air transportation manager from the 72nd Aerial Port Squadron, lives in Moore. His house was nearly missed by the deadly tornado, but did catch debris coming in from miles away.
"I found some paperwork in my back yard from Newcastle (Okla.) and my wife found Farmers Insurance receipts from the 1960s," Prokup said.
Other members of the 507th did not fare so well. Master Sgt. Tom Lord's house suffered substantial damage as the large tornado passed about a block north. Lord, a member of the 507th Medical Squadron, said houses behind and east of him were completely destroyed.
Lord's house is very close to the Briarwood Elementary School and is where the storm transformed into its largest and most deadly state as it continued east, according to local weather sources.
Fortunately for the Lord's neither he nor his wife and daughter were home when the tornado hit. Sergeant Lord was at work in Norman while his wife, Jeanette was working at their church home schooling children.
"We were sitting in the storm cellar at work when a guy told me that my neighborhood had just been destroyed," Sergeant Lord said.
When he finally made it to his house, Lord said it was still standing but there was a lot of noticeable damage. The worst damage, he said, was not visible from the front of his house.
"When I got inside, the first thing I noticed was a large gap between my roof and house," he said. "The roof must have been picked up and set back down."
Lord also said there is also a gap all the way down the side of the house. Most of the windows were blown out, several doors had been blown off the hinges and there were several holes in his roof. He even had the passenger side headlight sucked out of his truck and tossed into his back yard.
"My 18-year-old dog Rusty came running up to me," Lord said. "It's amazing that he was able to survive such a huge tornado."
Lord also found what he believes to be pieces from the Orr Family Farm located near his house. Over 100 horses from that location where lost during the tornado.
Lord also said an upstairs bedroom had the west wall blown into the attic.
"There is no other real damage up there, so I'm assuming when the roof lifted off the house, the wind just blew it over," he said.
For now, Lord his wife and daughter are living in temporary housing while dog Rusty is staying with family. He said his insurance adjuster hasn't had a chance to assess the house yet, but has indicated that Lord and his family should start looking for a more long term living situation.
"Our insurance will pay for us to rent something for a year," he said. "Depending on how bad the structure of the house is, it might take that long or longer to get it repaired."
With the cleanup of the aftermath just beginning, the reality of how lucky they were is starting to sink in with the Lords.
"It's almost like my stuff is inconsequential compared to everyone else who have had everything blown to bits," Sergeant Lord said.
Master Sgt. Master Sgt. Cherry Bina, 137th Maintenance Group, Oklahoma Air National Guard, was also deeply affected by the tragedy but she had a uplifting attitude.
"Our house is damaged, but thankfully no one was hurt," she said. "Our dog and my Harley motorcycle survived. Now we are just trying to dig out."
Moments after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck in Moore, Team Tinker moved into action providing help to state agencies, affected residents and the Oklahoma National Guard. Base personnel also helped clear on-base debris caused by the storm. Additionally, many reservists answered the call to help fellow unit members and people in the community.
More information on disaster relief efforts can be found at the Tinker Air Force Base public website, www.tinker.af.mil