Deadly Woodward Tornado: 5 Years Later

Sunday, March 26th 2017, 6:10 pm
By: News 9

April 15, 2012, Woodward saw its most devastating tornado in nearly six decades. It killed six people and destroyed dozens of home.

"It was a weird feel to the day which we had them before, tornadoes, but this one played itself out this time," said Carl Stewart who lost his home in the tornado.

His wife Retta said the tornado sirens had gone off all afternoon but no storms ever transpired. Then just after midnight, News 9 storm tracker Marty Logan saw it about a mile away.

"Right there it is," Marty said that night on News 9. "It's almost on the ground, southwest of Woodward. Everybody in Woodward needs to take tornado precautions"

However, the tornado sirens did not sound knocked out by the story. Like many residents, Carl and Retta were asleep. But their daughter in Weatherford was up and heard Marty's warnings.

"From the time Emily called, we got into the tub and it hit right then," said Carl.

Their home was among 89 others destroyed - but more devastating was the loss of six people that night - including three children.

"This was just total destruction," remembers Harper County Undersheriff Tom McClendon as he walks through the Hideaway trailer park. 

The neighborhood was one of the hardest hit areas. This is his first time back since that night.

"I can see everything, I can smell it. The faces, the feelings, it's all back," he said. 

Then, he points out an area in a nearby field when he found discovered 5-year-old Faith Hobbie.

"I came walking down and I looked and I thought it was a doll," he said fighting back the emotion. "I think until you pick that child up in your arms, you picture your own child. That's when that all comes out is whenever you're right there and you picture your own child in your arms or you picture that child out in that field that night."

Friend and fellow rescue worker Charlie Goodwin came up on McClendon holding Faith. 

"I come around the corner, he was standing there with the little girl that had passed away and the look on Tom's face was blank and I knew right then it was bad," Goodwin said.

Nearby, rescue workers scoured the twisted metal for Faith's family. They soon after found her sister, 7 year old Kelly, and the girls' father Frank.

"The first couple of months, I couldn't hold my boys without crying," McClendon said. "I think dealing with death, you don't ever get used to it."

Miraculously, the girls' two-year-old half-brother Ty survived. He also was found among the debris. His arm was nearly ripped off and he suffered multiple broken bones. Now six, he's completely healed and lives with his extended family, who is now his guardians.

"He was so young he didn't understand what was going on and what was happening," said Sheila Gay, Ty's Adoptive Mother. 

She said he does remember the family he lost - and keeps their pictures close by on a shelf in his bedroom.

"He fondly remembers them, mentions them often," she said. "He's doing really well, loves school, he's in soccer right now, he's enjoying life right now, so that's good to see."

Carl and Retta rebuilt their home, this time with a shelter.

"That phone call, Marty Logan doing his job and my daughter watching him because we were in bed, it saved us," Carl said.