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Victoria residents on vacation in Oklahoma take shelter in hotel

By Jessica Priest
May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.

This frame grab provided by KWTV shows a tornato in Oklahoma City Monday, April 20, 2013. Television footage shows flattened buildings and fires after a mile-wide tornado moved through the Oklahoma City area. (AP Photo/Courtesy KWTV)

Want to help?

The Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross stands ready to assist the victims and families of Monday's Oklahoma tornadoes, if needed.

"I don't know yet if we will be deploying up there," said Linda May, Red Cross emergency services specialist.

"The best thing Crossroads residents can do right now to help victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes is make monetary donations to the Red Cross. It's going to be chaotic up there," said May. "And prayer."

To donate, go to RedCross.org.

May said anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves from tornadoes can download the Red Cross' free tornado app.

From a mobile phone, call "REDCROSS" (73327677), and the agency will send a link to download the app to the phone, or the app can be downloaded directly from the iTunes or Google Play app stores.

Victoria resident June Bagnall remembers protesting when her mother insisted she climb inside a bathtub on the first floor of their Oklahoma City home and cover herself with a mattress.

She was just 10 years old then, and nothing appeared to be unusual outside.

Some 20 minutes later, it was an entirely different scene.

"When we came out, the second story of our house was completely gone," Bagnall said. "The funny thing is, after that, all she had to do was point, and we got up and ran. ... I think we learned our lesson."

Bagnall was among the Crossroads residents hailing from Tornado Alley who watched the news helplessly Monday night, willing their loved ones to survive the storm.

She did not understand about 8 p.m. Monday why the 75 school children and faculty hurt in Moore weren't similarly protected.

"We're all wondering if they just didn't make it down there in time or if it just hit so quick they didn't have time for all of them to get into the storm shelter," Bagnall said.

Charla Brown, meanwhile, was 10 to 15 miles from where the tornado touched down. She, her husband and two children drove up from Victoria on Sunday for a sort of vacation - her husband was attending training classes there - never imagining the weather would get this bad.

Bagnall, a former emergency medical technician from northeast Texas, said she wasn't scared as she hunkered down in her hotel room Monday night. She already made numerous trips to the ground floor's ballroom to take shelter, where she occupied her children with various games. Her area, surprisingly, emerged unscathed, except for some hail.

"My 3-year-old son likes to play games on my phone, and I taught my 4-year-old daughter how to play tic-tac-toe today with good old-fashioned pen and paper. She thought that was a hoot," Brown said via Facebook. "I can't deny that I miss the first-responder scene though. If I had my certs, I would be down there right now helping out. Kinda aches to not be able to go."

Brown, 39, was not able to make outgoing calls Monday night because all the area lines were tied up.

Sara Hernandez experienced something similar when she tried checking on relatives in her home state.

Her cousin's house, which was destroyed in a 1999 tornado, was leveled again Monday.

"She said that she's moving," Hernandez said.

The 39-year-old Victoria resident was glued to the TV and preparing to donate some canned goods to the relief efforts.

"I'm just in a state of shock," said Hernandez, who has seen some 20 tornadoes in southern Oklahoma. "We prepared for all of this growing up. We would do tornado drills at least once a month. Nobody ever thought we would see one that bad."

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