OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - A Western New York woman was just minutes away from leaving Oklahoma City on Monday, when the massive tornado, which has claimed 24 lives at last count, moved in.
Melissa Marranca-VanWyk of Depew had gone to Oklahoma City, where she grew up before leaving just over 20 years ago, to attend a relative's high school graduation.
She tells WGRZ-TV she was actually in a plane, taxiing to the runway and preparing to take off, when the weather suddenly turned and the pilot said they needed to wait until it passed to take off safely.
"There was all sorts of heavy lightning and hail, then the pilot said there was a small tornado on the south side of the airport, and that they were evacuating the control tower so we had to head back to the terminal," she said, when reached by phone Tuesday morning in Oklahoma City.
"As he turned the plane, I could see it coming from several miles away and turned to the lady sitting next to me and said, 'that is not a small tornado'. She looked at me and said, 'I know, but I think the pilot just said that to keep us all from freaking out on the plane'."
Having grown up in Oklahoma, Marranca-VanWyk also knew judging by its size, that the twister would cause catastrophic damage.
Marranca-VanWyk's mother actually lives in Newcastle, which was one of the two towns hit by the tornado, and where it initially touched down. Fortunately, her mom is okay, and her home is relatively unscathed.
"It's scary," said Jane Cooper of Buffalo, who has distant relatives in hard hit Moore, Oklahoma. Ever since seeing the first images of the tornado appear on television last evening, and being unable contact anyone by phone, she's held close to social media...constantly looking on from her home in Riverside. Through the postings of both her relatives, and their friends, she has learned that her family members were not hurt, and that their homes only sustained minor damage.
Though they can be counted as lucky, it will still be a tough row ahead.
"According to what I learned on line, the house is okay, but they have no electricity no running water, they have nowhere to go to the bathroom,...nothing. They're staying with relatives outside of town," she said.
Not all relatives of Western New Yorkers were as fortunate.
Nichole Blazer of Amherst says the tornado destroyed the home of her Aunt, Mona Sanders-Thomas, in Moore.
She tells WGRZ-TV that her cousin Erik Thomas a police officer, was on duty, was able to call his mother and tell her the twister was heading straight for her, and to hide.
According to Blazer her aunt grabbed pillows and blankets and hid in a closet, and could hear windows breaking and her walls crumbling. Rubble fell on her, trapping her...her cries for help too faint for first responders to hear.
Pinned down with debris, she was able to reach a splintered board, and bang on the wall in front of her...the sound eventually leading rescuers to her location.