Broken hearts: Nowata storm victims begin picking up the pieces
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
11/01/12 at 12:52 PM
Correction: A Sunday Tulsa World story incorrectly implied who found Ron Lee Inman, 73, Rosella Darlene Inman, 70, and their great-granddaughter after they were killed Friday in a storm near Nowata. The search was led by Nowata firefighters, neighbors and other family members. This story has been corrected.
NOWATA - Jerry Inman and a team of searchers found his parents and 4-month-old great-niece amid piles of plywood and furniture in a field.
"It's like the house just exploded," he said. "It happened so fast that they were still in their chairs."
The mobile home apparently had broken apart dozens of yards east of its foundation. Doors, appliances and children's toys peeked indiscriminately from the debris.
Ron Lee Inman, 73, Rosella Darlene Inman, 71, and their great-granddaughter were killed about 3:20 p.m. Friday in the house near U.S. 169 and Nowata County Road 20 as a powerful cold front brought extreme winds and severe thunderstorms to northeastern Oklahoma.
The wind also damaged several nearby homes and toppled two tractor-trailer rigs in Ottawa County, killing one driver.
Jerry Inman and his parents' neighbors said they suspected that a tornado was to blame for their damage, but a National Weather Service forecaster said radar did not detect rotation.
"We've had tornadoes around here before, and I have never seen them take somebody's home with them in it like this," Jerry Inman said. "If my dad had known there was a tornado, he'd have had them all in the cellar."
The forecaster said it was more likely an isolated thunderstorm downburst producing tornado-like winds of 80 to 90 mph.
More than a dozen family members sifted through the debris Saturday morning, stacking the plywood and collecting sentimental items.
Terry Inman, Jerry Inman's brother, found his mother's cell phone. Cindy Carter dusted off an old photo. Jerry Inman pulled his father's horse saddle from a creek.
"They're telling me I can get a lot of money for this," he said. "I won't sell it. I can't."
Down the street, members of Nowata's Living Word Church picked up branches from the yard of a badly damaged house the church rents to its pastor, Matt Rowe. Rowe and three other people were in the house when the storm hit.
"The good thing is no one was hurt," church member Cindy Jauhola said. "The pastor and his family are staying in Pryor until we can determine that the house is structurally safe."
The residents of two houses across the street told church members that they lost everything because they had no insurance to cover their damage, Jauhola said.
Church members also noticed trees in the area that appeared to have been twisted off, and a metal barn next to Rowe's house had been lifted away, she said.
As the church members worked, they had to step over a power line that had fallen along the east side of U.S. 169 and into Rowe's yard.
"Right here, this area got hit pretty bad," Jauhola said.
The pocket of significant damage was small, centered on U.S. 169 and County Road 20 about 1 1/2 miles north of Nowata, National Weather Service forecaster Mike Lacy said.
But widespread winds of 60-80 mph downed power lines and trees throughout northeastern Oklahoma and damaged roofs in several counties, he said.
"The atmosphere ahead of that front was very hot and dry, and when storms develop like that they tend to produce very damaging winds," he said.
The temperature at Tulsa International Airport dropped from a high of 101 degrees to 76 degrees as the front passed.
The wind fanned grass fires across the area, including one that forced brief evacuations near 52nd West Avenue and Rock School Road in Osage County.
In Ottawa County, a tractor-trailer rig overturned just after 4 p.m. on the Will Rogers Turnpike about six miles east of Afton. Its driver, Jimmy Carl King, 70, of Ash Grove, Mo., was pronounced dead at the scene, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.
Another truck on the turnpike overturned just after 4 p.m., injuring its driver, authorities said.
Original Print Headline: Broken hearts
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Relatives Chub and Cindy Carter comfort Jerry Inman on Saturday at the site of his parents' mobile home. ZACK STOYCOFF / Tulsa World
Family photographs sit among the debris left a day after a storm blew a trailer home across a nearby creek, killing a Nowata couple and their great-granddaughter. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Friends and family of the three people killed when storms blew their trailer home across a nearby creek pick through and clean up the debris of what is left. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Jerry Inman takes a break from cleaning up Saturday after his parents' mobile home was destroyed in Friday afternoon's storm. ZACK STOYCOFF / Tulsa World
A tin-can robot sits among the debris a day after storms blew a trailer home across a nearby creek, killing three people. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World