Valley Natives Tell of Twister

Ohio Valley native Chris Thoburn is among those assisting relief efforts in the wake of a devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., on Monday, killing dozens, including children.

“We definitely have heavy hearts here this morning. It’s really hard to take in,” said Thoburn, a native of Belmont who currently works in the athletic department at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, about 75 miles north of Moore.

Also nearby on Monday was Steubenville native Marissa Dzomba, who said her place of employment is located north of Oklahoma City about 3 miles from where the tornado struck.

“We knew when the weather would hit us, but we didn’t know how bad it would be,” Dzomba said. “Then the hail started to hit our building. The hail was the size of golf balls and was just pounding against the walls of the building as well as the windows. … That’s when everyone was told to go to our tornado shelter room in the basement. You couldn’t hear the hail or the wind because we were below ground level and everyone was talking. But we could still hear the warning sirens. It was eerie at times while we waited.”

Stillwater also experienced high winds and rain but escaped any significant damage. Thoburn recalled how quickly the situation developed, and how he felt when he realized the extent of the damage on Monday evening.

“You watch it unfold on TV and it’s like you’re watching a horror movie,” he added. “It’s one of the worst tragedies they’ve ever had here. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Moore, a suburb of about 41,000 people south of Oklahoma City, was inaccessible to volunteers Tuesday morning, according to Thoburn. Some of his work associates reside in the area, and the 26-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University graduate and former Wheeling Nailers employee was anxious and frustrated because he could not reach them.

Unable to directly reach those affected, Thoburn and others are gathering and purchasing supplies and relief items such as clothing, which rescue workers can deliver to Moore.

Also among those assisting is the West Virginia University baseball team, which remained in Oklahoma City after wrapping up its regular season at Oklahoma State. The team missed the tornado by about 5-10 miles, head coach Randy Mazey announced via Twitter.

And Chesapeake Energy Corp., the most active natural gas driller in the Upper Ohio Valley, announced it will make a $1 million cash donation to the American Red Cross to be used in rescue and recovery efforts. The Oklahoma City-based company also is organizing hundreds of employee volunteers to help tornado victims.

Dave Gossett contributed to this report.