Duke’s Hunt, Jackson survive deadly tornado
As a tornado tore apart her Oklahoma home on Monday, Duke soccer player Ana Hunt cried as she heard her mother praying.
Inside a specially built shelter attached to the side of the house in Moore, Okla., mother and daughter heard the deafening roar of the storm.
“They always say it sounds like a train,” Ana Hunt said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “But it sounded like a train was going through our house.”
Another Duke athlete, basketball player Richa Jackson, lives in nearby Midwest City, Okla. Jackson was visiting a cousin in Moore when the storm struck. She took shelter there and, like Hunt, emerged from the experience safe.
Jackson was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday, but she did speak to Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie.
“So great to finally connect via phone with Richa,” McCallie said on Twitter. “She experienced it all. Blessed to be ok with family. Never experienced anything like that ever!”
The pressure from the massive tornado, Hunt said, made it feel like gravitational forces were pushing and pulling her. The noise, and the pressure in her ears, combined to drown out her mother’s prayers.
“I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it through because it was so loud,” Ana Hunt said.
Pink insulation, unleashed when the tornado ripped the roof off the house, blew into the shelter through the air vents near the top. Hunt said that made it hard to breathe.
But she and her mother, Doreen Hunt, sat side-by-side and rode out the storm as their home crumbled around them.
When the massive tornado, which Oklahoma officials have estimated at up to two miles wide, moved on to continue tearing apart the Oklahoma City suburbs, the Hunt’s home and two of their neighbors’ homes were destroyed.
Suddenly, Ana and Doreen heard their neighbors checking on them.
“If you are alive, yell,” the voices said.
“We’re alive! We’re alive!” Ana said she and her mother replied.
They emerged from the debris, climbing over the splintered wood and crumbled walls that used to be their home. Utility poles had hit the structure, so Ana and Doreen carefully avoided the wires because they didn’t know whether they were dangerous.
Once outside the shelter, they heard the hissing caused by gas leaking from the damaged homes.
Their house was destroyed, but Ana and Doreen were uninjured.
But what of the rest of their family?
Ana’s younger siblings, 15-year-old twins Stephen and Samantha, were at Moore High School. Their father, Alvin, was at work at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
Ana called him first.
“Dad,” she said, “our house got hit by the tornado. Our house got hit. Our house got hit. It’s completely gone.”
Alvin Hunt made sure they were uninjured and headed for home.
Ana said she and her mother tried to call and text message the twins but couldn’t get through because phone service either was overloaded or knocked out.
They were able to get a text message that they were being held at Moore High School until they could be picked up by family members.
The tornado also smashed Ana and Doreen’s cars, so they headed out on foot to make the mile hike to the school.
Once they retrieved the twins, the family attempted to get back to their neighborhood. But police had blocked the roads and weren’t allowing anyone in.
So they wandered around Moore for nearly two hours before finding a way to cut through nearby yards to find their way to the house.
Alvin Hunt was there with his car, and they set out to buy supplies. They loaded up on toiletries, water, air mattresses and pillows.
Alvin Hunt manages rental properties, and one of his units just happened to be vacant and undamaged. So the family is making their home there.
On Tuesday, with rain falling, they went back to the house to attempt to salvage what they could. All of the important papers were in the safe room so those were undamaged.
Ana said a few clothes were retrieved, and she found two photo albums laying on her bed.
“But that’s not where they were originally,” she said.
They don’t have much, but they have their health.
“Everything else,” Ana Hunt said, “is just things.”