Within moments, Fambrough and her youngest daughter, Kaylee, were pulled apart as the powerful storm splintered their mobile home.
“She said she was just jerked out of her hands,” said Danna McCord, Susan Fambrough’s oldest daughter.
Kaylee emerged from the wreckage with minor injuries, but later that night, McCord’s husband Stephen discovered the bodies of Susan Fambrough, 54, and her husband, Vincent, 48.
The two were among eight people killed in the Tuesday night tornado, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Michelann Ooten. Another 14 were seriously injured. Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said Thursday his earlier report that one of these 14 had died was incorrect.
Others killed as the tornado ripped across the southern Oklahoma town of Lone Grove included an Air Force retiree, a trucker from Jones who was passing through the area and a well-liked clerk who worked the graveyard shift at a truck stop along Interstate 35.
Emergency crews finished rescue and recovery efforts after the devastating tornado left residents the massive job of cleaning up debris and rebuilding 100 homes damaged or destroyed in the storm.
“The search and rescue is complete,” Lone Grove City Manager Marianne Elfert said Thursday.
Elfert said 10 to 15 people are still unaccounted for, but they are believed to have simply left the area. She said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials would be assessing damage Thursday as the state works through the process of seeking federal assistance for uninsured losses.
Most utility service was restored by Thursday to the southern Oklahoma town of 4,600 people.
“I think people are very optimistic,” Elfert said. “We are a strong community.”
The state Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday identified the other victims as Tim Nevill, 36, a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service; Molly Hutchison, 53, a clerk at a Springer Truck stop; Gary Boyd Jr., 39, a truck driver from Jones; Donna McGarvey, 54, a retiree and South Dakota native; William Wheat, 78, an Air Force retiree; and Trevor Morgan, 30. All of the victims expect Boyd lived in Lone Grove and all suffered some form of blunt force trauma, said Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner’s office.
Residents on Thursday were sorting through belongings, beginning cleanup and checking on the welfare of friends and relatives.
Lynn Self sifted through the debris of a mobile home where he said his friend’s wife died. He said his friend is living with him temporarily and does not want his name released.
“He’s still in shock,” Self said.
“I tried to console him as best I could, he really is like a second dad to me. We’ll pray a lot for him and be there when he needs us.”
The tornado picked the couple’s mobile home off its foundation and tossed the contents over a wide area.
“They actually found some of the belongings from this house down there,” Self said pointing to a pile of debris 100 yards away. The couple’s four dogs all survived and were found inside one of their demolished cars.
Nearby Christian Clemens rummaged through the remains of her mobile home as relatives loaded undamaged items into a trailer.
“It’s gone, that’s all I can say,” Clemens said as she looked over the debris.
“We don’t have nothing now, we’re finding little bits and pieces and that’s about it.”
She and her husband, Thor Clemens, left their home with their dogs just before the tornado struck. The couple’s cat, Wilson, was left behind, but appeared from the rubble of the destroyed home Thursday morning and appeared to be in good shape.
At another mobile home park on Wednesday, Sue Rose looked at a debris field and wondered how a half-mile wide tornado could ravage nearly everything in sight and take so many lives but spare hers.
“I don’t know how I made it,” Rose said. She rode out the storm in a trailer at the Bar K Mobile Home Park with family members.
“I tried to keep the kids calm. We just prayed,” she said, fighting back tears.
Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office, said the majority of deaths were from blunt force trauma to the head.
Most of the deaths occurred in an area of mobile homes, where no tornado shelter was available for residents to take refuge. In one case, a victim was found underneath a pickup truck the tornado had lifted and dropped on him.
There also were miraculous tales of survival. People who were huddling in a closet grabbed a woman after the tornado blew part of the roof off and threatened to carry her away. Rescuers found another woman injured but alive under an overturned mobile home.
Sheriff’s Deputy David Gilley said between 100 and 150 homes were destroyed in Lone Grove, located about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City.
Residents apparently had good warning of the approaching twister. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning, meaning a tornado is imminent and residents should take shelter, at 6:50 p.m. for Carter County. Another was issued at 7:15 p.m. when the actual tornado was spotted. The tornado hit Lone Grove at 7:25 p.m.
The Lone Grove tornado was the third to cause multiple fatalities in the state since March 2007, when a Panhandle couple became the state’s first tornado deaths in almost six years.
The storm took many by surprise because even in tornado-prone Oklahoma, February twisters are rare. According to the weather service, 44 have touched down in the state during the month of February since 1950.