For those in the region with relatives in Oklahoma, it’s been a difficult 24-hours.
A massive tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, killing at least two dozen people and injuring over 100.
Russell Sells of Carney’s Point, in Salem County, NJ received word Tuesday afternoon regarding the status of a 22 year-old female cousin. Since the storm hit she had been unheard from, but finally contacted family late Tuesday to say she was OK.
“They are completely in shock down there,” said Sells, a truck driver.
Although he is originally from Texas, Sells considers Oklahoma a dear part of his childhood, and recalls visiting family there while growing up.
Oklahoma City Police Detective Jason Saxon described the class F5 tornado as almost two miles wide.
"People out here lost their homes. We've lost a large number of people, a lot of them kids. It's just an awful thing that's happen," Saxon said. "You can't put it into words."
Penn graduate student Michael Convente from North Jersey has fond memories of playing with his cousins as a child, the oldest of which now lives in Moore. Convente says his cousin was alerted to pick up his toddler from daycare. But, after he got there, he couldn't leave because the tornado was approaching.
“He walked in the front door and walked out where the back door used to be,” said Convente. “I consider them really lucky.”
He said his cousin’s new pickup truck was tossed around like a toy, ultimately landing a distance from the daycare.
On his Facebook page, Convente's cousin wrote:
“Daddy and the toughest kid in the world after the daycare building collapsed on us. We’re bruised and scratched, but OK overall… has anyone seen my truck? It’s not where I parked it at SW149th.”
Amanda Tartaglione of Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, NJ, remembers visiting family in the neighboring town of Midwest City, Oklahoma in 2009.
“I know exactly what’s going on. We had to get under the bunker when a tornado passed by. You hear the sirens going off. It’s a surreal experience,” said Tartaglione. “It was crazy.”
Yesterday, Tartaglione panicked because she couldn’t reach her relatives by phone. All the lines rang busy. She was able to reach her cousin through Facebook, who assured her the entire family was okay and their homes were fine.
Lana Fails is a Moore native now living in Ridley Park. She is holding on to the good news she received via Facebook that all of her family is safe and sound in Moore. Some of the houses are damaged.
"We are blessed they picked up their kids and left the immediate area right before the storm hit. Thanks again to the meteorologists and the local media for getting the warnings out early enough to save lives," she said.