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‘She’s moving this time’

Longtime resident Christine Staats has just about had it with tornadoes ripping through her town and damaging her home.

BY PJ HELLER | MOORE, Okla. | May 15, 2003

"Every time there's a tornado through here, it's come within two or three blocks."

—Gary Staats

Longtime resident Christine Staats has just about had it with tornadoes ripping through her town and damaging her home.

So after living in the same home for nearly 40 years – and seeing it damaged by tornadoes at least six times – she's seriously considering packing it in and trying to move out of harms way.

"She's moving this time," insisted her son Gary Staats. "She's done. She's had enough."

The last straw came last week when a powerful tornado blew the roof off her house and caused extensive damage to her belongings. Her home was one of 1,200 buildings that were damaged or destroyed in the town last Thursday by the F4 twister.

As a group of young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped clean up the debris in her yard Wednesday, the 74-year-old Staats was talking about the possibility of selling her house and hopefully moving out of the path of future tornadoes.

"She's going to stay in the area but she's going to get out of this swath (where the tornadoes hit)," Gary Staats said. "Every time there's a tornado through here, it's come within two or three blocks."

In the May 1999 tornado, the house suffered about $6,000 in damages. Previous storms caused less damage.

This time, though, the house took a heavy hit from the storm.

"This is the worst it's ever been," Staats said.

"This is the first time to this degree," agreed his mother, who noted she has lived in the house for 39 years.

A structural engineer is scheduled to inspect the house later this week to determine if it can be rebuilt or whether it is a total loss. The insurance company handling the claim has said the house can be rebuilt.

"We're not so sure," Gary Staats said.

Even if the house isn't a total loss, he vowed that his mother wouldn't be living there.

"If they make her rebuild it, she's going to sell it and she's going to get out of this (tornado) swath through here," he said.

Christine Staats, who in the past would take shelter in a downstairs hall closet when tornado warnings were sounded, was in New Mexico with a church group when the twister hit last week. Her house has never had a safe room or a storm cellar.

Had she been at home, Gary Staats said he would have been extremely anxious about how his mother would have fared in the storm. In the last seven years, she has undergone triple bypass heart surgery and has had a pacemaker implanted. She lives in the house alone.

"I'm glad she wasn't here this time," he said. "Her heart probably couldn't have stood it."

Christine Staats said she knows her son would have worried if she had been at home at the time of the storm. She said she isn't against the idea of moving, noting that she doesn't need such a large house. She said the stairs in the house are also a problem for her.

Family members have been helping her salvage what she can from the wreckage of her home. To avoid more damage to the house from an early Wednesday morning thunderstorm, the carpets have were pulled out to avoid having them get waterlogged. Tarps have gone up where the roof once was to try to keep the rains out.

"We've been at this every day since Thursday," Gary Staats said of trying to move contents out of the house. "We're just wore out."

With all the work going on inside the house, the Staats' said having the missionaries helping to clean up the debris outside was a great help. About 160 missionaries from the church are in Oklahoma and began offering assistance to stricken communities immediately after the tornadoes struck.

"They're absolutely fantastic," Gary Staats said. "They are a godsend."

Gary Staats said his home wasn't affected by the tornado. He was in his car on the southwest side of town when he first saw the twister.

"I saw it actually come out of the clouds and start the debris trail," he said. "I started running the other way dodging debris in my Jeep. I had to go through a hay field to get away from it. I immediately turned around and came back behind it because I knew where it was going and knew what was all up in here . . . my family is all up in here."

He said his daughter, who lives in an apartment in town that was also damaged, managed to escape injury. She would have been at home when the twister hit but had run out of gasoline and was delayed getting home.

"We're all real fortunate," he said. "Real fortunate."

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