One such relative is Jennie DeCook, a Cleveland resident who said she found out how one of her cousins was doing by seeing an Associated Press photo published in the Cleveland Daily Banner.
The photo depicted her second cousin, Gene Tripp, sitting in a rocking chair where his home used to stand as firemen in uniform walk by and stop to see how he is doing.
DeCook said Tripp waited out the tornado in a storm cellar on his property and was physically unhurt even though the doors to the cellar had been blown off the hinges. When the storm ended, he learned he had lost two houses, two cars and two boats located on his property. She also said that Tripp had lost his wife about a month before the tornado happened.
“The poor thing has been through a lot,” DeCook said.
Tripp was one of several cousins DeCook said she had living in Oklahoma, him being her father’s first cousin. She said Tripp and other family members who were left without places to stay were staying with other relatives. Social media websites like Facebook have helped her learn how everyone has been doing, she added.
Despite the property damages, she said she counted her family fortunate for not having lost any family members to the storms.
But there were other families who have had to grieve the losses of loved ones. The office of Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner reported this week that at least 26 people had died as the result of storms on May 20 and 21.
DeCook said she expected the people of Oklahoma would band together to help each other much the same way people in Tennessee gathered to help victims in the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit the Cleveland area on April 27, 2011.
“The community’s pretty good about helping each other,” DeCook said.
DeCook said she was personally impacted by the 2011 tornado outbreak, which she said made her more aware of the challenges tornado victims face.
“I know most of us who had any losses in 2011 are understanding and eager to help,” DeCook said.
She said that all the family members she knew of were banding together and that many charitable organizations have been working to help people of the Oklahoma City area.
DeCook suggested that anyone interested in helping tornado victims can donate to national organizations like The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, several Red Cross shelters and Salvation Army canteens have been made available to help people there. The local Red Cross chapter does not currently have any plans to send people but is encouraging financial donations, said Julia Wright, the local branch manager. The local Salvation Army chapter is also encouraging donations, according to its page on Facebook.
Local organization Operation Compassion has sent 25 tractor-trailer loads of supplies along with volunteers to the area, and the Church of God’s Men and Women of Action has finalized plans to send a team of 14 volunteers to Oklahoma Saturday morning, according to their websites.