Storm Trackers Hank, Patty Brown Remember 2013 Moore Tornado
OKLAHOMA CITY - The 2013 Moore tornado hit home, literally, for News 9 storm trackers Hank and Patty Brown. In the afternoon of May 20 that massive storm leveled the neighborhood where the Browns grew up. Five years later, they take us back to that moment and show us the community's rebirth.
"It's crazy to see all these houses so different, everything's built," said Hank Brown, News 9 Storm Tracker.
The last time storm trackers Hank and Patty Brown drove through the Moore neighborhood just off N. Santa Fe Ave., it was unrecognizable.
"It was a tough day, it was very real still just kind of burns an impression into you," Hank remembers.
It was this neighborhood that took a direct hit from the 2013 tornado. They were chasing another storm that day when they heard fellow storm tracker Val Castor saying the tornado had just passed 149th Street.
"I looked at patty and I said it's bad," he said. "This is coming right towards the neighborhood where my mom lives, her mom lives, her sister lives our friends live, the neighborhood I grew up in."
With the tornado barreling towards Moore, Patty got on the phone to warn her mom and sister.
"It was just very stressful," remembers Patty Brown. "And I don't know 100 percent where they are, they're scared. Plus I have our kids in the car."
Cameron who was 10 and Ashley who was 18 were chasing that day with their parents.
"On the little TV in the truck a picture or a video of the tornado popped up and that's when I said 'I don't want grandma to die,'" said Cameron Brown, Hank and Patty's son.
"All of a sudden the tone in the truck just changes because all of a sudden, this isn't just excitement and fun anymore, this is like people's lives and it's our family and it's real," said Ashley Brown, Hank and Patty's daughter.
The experience was especially real for her cousin Samantha, who was a 6th grader at Plaza Towers.
"I was in my math class and my phone started going off like for severe weather," said Samantha Brace, Hank and Patty's niece.
Samantha was checked out of Plaza Towers before the tornado hit the school.
"I didn't expect that to be the last time I stepped foot in that school," Samantha said.
Once the tornado passed, Hank and Patty learned their families were safe. However, they weren't prepared for the devastation the tornado left behind.
"We walked around the corner and it was like obliteration, everything is just in a pile of rubble," said Hank.
Samantha only found her cheer uniforms, she had lost her home and seven students from her school.
"I think it was just one of the roughest experiences," she said.
Five years later, the city of Moore recovers.
"Nice to see how beautiful the neighborhood is now," said Patty.
"The school's bigger and better than it ever was," Hank said. "To see this whole neighborhood rebuilt, it's just a testament to the Oklahoma spirit."