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   MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Nicknamed "The Wall," 8-year-old Kyle Davis loved soccer and going to Monster Truck exhibitions at the fairgrounds with his grandfather. JaNae Hornsby, 9, loved to draw, sing, and be a big sister and cousin to her younger relatives.

   The two were among the young victims of Monday's monstrous tornado, their small bodies pulled from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was reduced to a massive heap of bricks and twisted metal. Twenty-two others were killed, including five other 9-year-olds at the one-story building.

   As the ominous funnel cloud began its 17-mile path, Kyle took shelter in the school's gymnasium with dozens of other students, his grandfather Marvin Dixon said Wednesday.

   "He was in the position that the teacher told them to be in —crouched down with their hands over their heads," Dixon said. "The medical examiner said either some big rock or beam or something fell right on the back of his neck. He said he died instantly."

   Dixon counted his grandson among the lucky ones. The medical examiner reported the six other children who died at the school suffocated after being buried under a mass of bricks, steel and other materials as the building collapsed. Dixon said a morgue worker told him some of the children who suffocated were huddled in one of the school's bathrooms.

   "He said some of the kids were hurt so bad it was tough to even identify them," Dixon said, his voice cracking with emotion.

   Kyle earned his nickname, "The Wall," because of the ferocity with which he played his favorite sport — soccer.

   "He was a pretty big kid," his grandfather said. "Whenever he had the ball, other kids would just bounce off of him. That's why they called him that. ... He was just the kindest, most giving kid you would ever meet. He had a grin from ear to ear."

   JaNae's father Joshua rushed toward the Plaza Towers school when he realized the powerful tornado packing speeds up to 200 mph was bearing down on the town. But it took him 30 minutes. The tornado already slammed through the building.

   "I was just in panic," Hornsby said, recalling those minutes when he realized the school had been hit and he hadn't made it in time.

   "I just kept going until I got to the school and when I got to the school I started to look for JaNae," he said Wednesday, sitting on the small front porch of a relative's home in nearby Oklahoma City.

   By then, the third-grader was among those suffocated beneath the debris. The official cause of death was mechanical asphyxia.

   Frantic, he combed through the rubble with other students and first responders looking desperately for JaNae. Slowly, more and more children were pulled from the rubble. Some had scratches and bruises. Some were bleeding. But they were alive. And none of them were JaNae.

   With each passing minute, "there was still more panic," Hornsby said.

   For two days, Hornsby and a small group of parents whose children were not found in the rubble waited at a church in Moore.

   "I was still hopeful that maybe she would turn up," Hornsby said, thinking she might be at a friend's house or someplace else.

   On Tuesday, he was at the church when he received the news.

   His daughter was among the 10 children killed, buried under the rubble of a school that had always been a safe haven for them.

   The family's house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed. He hasn't gone back to see if he might find a few of JaNae's things to keep.

   "JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said smiling as he remembered the small girl.

   As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.

   "If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.

   The family of 9-year-old Christopher Legg described him as someone who never met a stranger. Christopher, who also suffocated inside the school, played football, baseball and basketball and "loved to roughhouse and wrestle" with his father, older brother and little sister, his family said in a statement. The youngster also faced his diagnosis with skin cancer and joint problems in his knees "with the same strength and enthusiasm that he had for life."

   Sydney Angle, another 9-year-old killed at Plaza Towers, was lovingly referred to as "a pickle" by her softball coach Landon McNeill, who was with the girl's parents as they waited at a church for news about their daughter.

   "Sydney was real quirky," McNeill said. "She could be anywhere and have fun doing it."

Published in National News

   GRANBURY, Texas (AP) — Habitat for Humanity spent years in a North Texas subdivision, helping build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 16 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.

   On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury, while residents awaited the chance to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.

   Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage. The National Weather Service's preliminary estimate was that tornado had wind speeds between 166 and 200 mph. Other tornadoes spawned from the violent spring storm damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

   "I tell you, it has just broken my heart," said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building the homes in a Granbury neighborhood and those poised to become homeowners.

   Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry said Thursday he couldn't tell one street from another in Granbury's Rancho Brazos Estates neighborhood because of the destruction. Half of one home was torn away while the other half was still standing, glasses and vases intact on shelves. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, and fences were flattened. Sheet metal could be seen hanging from utility wires.

   The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe.

   Of the homes in the Rancho Brazos Estates, 61 of them were built by Habitat for Humanity, according to Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. He said most of those homes were damaged, including at least a dozen that were destroyed.

   Raul Rodriguez was among the lucky few: His Habitat for Humanity home was still standing. The 42-year-old mechanic rode the storm out in a closet with his wife and three children. They heard the windows shattering outside but realized their fortune when they emerged to see a heartbreaking scene.

   "Injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911," said Rodriguez, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than two years. He assessed his own home, finding only shattered windows, lost roof shingles and a collapsed garage.

   "My neighbors to the right, they lost everything," he said.

   Habitat for Humanity homes, built for low-income buyers using volunteer labor and donations, are financed with affordable loans. The nonprofit selects homeowners based on their level of need, willingness to become partners in the program and ability to repay their loan. Homeowners invest their own time into building the homes as well.

   Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Jackson said the damaged or destroyed homes were insured and can be rebuilt. But that doesn't alleviate Tallant's pain. She'd gotten to know the people who had waited for years to become homeowners.

   "We were going to dedicate a house this weekend, and her home was destroyed," she said.

   Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said Thursday afternoon that two of the dead were women and four of them men; one man and one woman in their 80s.

   "Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. Six or seven people have not been accounted for, he said at a news conference.

   "I'm very confident we'll find those people alive and well," Deeds said, adding 37 injured people were treated at hospitals. "We're going to keep looking. We're not going to give up until every piece of debris is turned over."

   Harold Brooks, a meteorologist at the weather service's severe storm lab in Norman, Okla., said May 15 is the latest into the month that the U.S. has had to wait for its first significant tornadoes of the year. Brooks said he would expect 2013 to be one of the least lethal tornado years since the agency started keeping records in 1954.

   Earlier Thursday, about 20,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power. By the evening, it had dropped to nearly 3,500 homes and businesses.

   Another tornado cut a mile-wide path through Cleburne on Wednesday, storm spotters told the National Weather Service. The weather service said it was estimated as an EF-3, which has winds between 136 mph and 165 mph.

   Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said Thursday morning that no one was killed or seriously hurt in the city of about 30,000 some 25 miles southeast of Granbury. Nine people suffered minor injuries, and upward of 150 homes were damaged and another 50 were destroyed.

   Cleburne resident Derrek Grisham, 26, said he ran to his mother's home to check on her and his 10-year-old son, who was staying with her.

   "I had to kick in the front door to get them out," he said, explaining the two had taken shelter in a bathtub.

   On Thursday, he went through his mother's damaged home, salvaging items before the home is likely torn down. The roof had been ripped off and he said her belongings were a jumbled mass, but crosses had stayed in place on the living room wall.

Published in National News

   Just a week after severe storms brought damaging wind and tornadoes to the St. Louis area, the threat of more dangerous weather is in the forecast.  Hazelwood residents continue to clean up after a twister ripped through their community last week. But their mayor is hoping they'll now shift focus from patching roofs to preparing for the next round of storms.  

   Mayor Matthew Robinson says he hopes people heed the warning the next time the tornado sirens sound.  "When they do," he said, "obviously you can see what we went through here in Hazelwood.  People need to take shelter, because you never know.  You never know when that train’s going to be coming.”

  The mayor says if temporary tarps are damaged in this next round of storms, there are materials and supplies and volunteers that’ll come out again and help patch them up again. 

  Meanwhile residents in one storm-battered Hazelwood apartment complex are still trying to recover.  That includes Renee Fletcher, who spent  Tuesday gathering her things from her damaged apartment before they could be ruined by more bad weather.

   Fletcher says some things have already been ruined.  "There is significant molding that’s already taking place in the building," she said.  "So definitely, you want to get your things out, but it’s not safe for you to be in there anyway."

   Fletcher had lived at the Teson Garden Apartments when the tornado struck last week.  All nine buildings in the complex were so badly damaged, they've been condemned. Police say residents have until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday  to collect their belongings.  Then the buildings will be closed up for repairs.  Two of the buildings may need to be torn down. 

 

 
Published in Local News

   All schools in the Hazelwood School District will be in session on Monday.  

   The district had called off school on Thursday, the morning after an EF-2 tornado damaged homes in the north county district.  Some Hazelwood schools had reopened by Friday, but others had not.  

   District officials say classes will resume in all district schools Monday, with counselors on hand to talk with students who are dealing with emotional strain after the storms.  

   School buses will be running in all neighborhoods, but one stop had to be moved because of storm damage.  According to the district website, the stop for West Middle School that is normally at Lynn Haven and Howdershell will be moved this morning only to Lynn Haven and Deville.

Published in Local News

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