Daugher of IGRC retired pastor grateful to be safe following tornado
(Editor’s note: Beth Groh is the daughter of IGRC retired pastor Earl and Sandra Renshaw of Murphysboro).
MOORE, Okla. — A day after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Moore, Okla., Beth Groh wearily kept an eye on a stormy sky, grateful her family was safe.
Groh and her husband Jeff are Southern Illinois natives; both graduated from Murphysboro High School and have family in the Carbondale and Murphysboro area. The couple’s careers took them to Oklahoma City, and they decided to settle there.
The Groh’s live with their three children on the south side of Oklahoma City; two of their three children attend school in the Moore School District. Beth Groh said one thing that is hard to decipher on the national news is that Moore and Oklahoma City, although two separate municipalities, are connected through suburban blur. You can leave one and enter another without knowing it.
Groh said residents around the Oklahoma City area are very much aware of the potential for severe weather, and historically the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. window is the “worry time.” The national severe weather forecasting center for the country is in Norman, Okla., which is another suburb less than 15 miles away.
“We’re in one of the most weather-wise communities in the world because we know we have a target on our back,” she said. “You know when it’s one of those days, so you keep an ear to the ground.”
Shortly after 2 p.m. May 20, Groh decided to tune into the forecast —seeing for herself that conditions were becoming ripe for severe weather.
Groh’s instincts prompted her to call the high school to have her son come home. Her 19-year-old daughter Christina had fin-ished finals at a local college and was already home.
With the storm quickly developing, Groh’s dilemma became whether she had time to get her son from the junior high. A text told her the students were being taken to shelter in the school.
When the tornado formed, it dropped about three miles from their home, she said. The path of the tornado was less than a mile from the high school where her 16-year-old son Jacob had been and about 2 miles from where her 13-year-old son Ryan was shelter in the junior high. Her husband was on the other side of Moore, and ended up being less than a mile from the tornado’s path.
As the storm approached the Groh home, severe hail and high winds began pounding the area. Beth, Christina and Jacob retreated to the storm shelter.
“At that point every precaution we had wasn’t working, we couldn’t get a radio signal and there was no cell service down in the shelter,” Groh said. “It just went to utter silence, which is actually, believe it or not, is more scary.”
“As a mom I’m in the storm shelter, and I get a text from my son at the school and it says ‘the power went out, I love you mom,’” she said tearfully. “He was OK, but I think of those parents who did not get that text and then did not find their child afterward. There’s a lot of hugs around here today. It’s unthinkable what those parents went through.”
After a chaotic 45 minute journey to get her son from the junior high, the family was reunited and able to make it home.
They spent the evening at home, getting text updates on the storm damage from Groh’s sister in Carbondale.
The Groh’s own rental property in the area hit hardest. Eventually they were able to determine that all of their tenants were able to make it out safely.
“No one would have survived (had they been inside). There’s no wall intact in that building,” Groh said.
(Reprinted with permission from the May 22 issue of The Southern Illinoisan, www.thesouthern.com)