LOCKETT (KFDX/KJTL) — It’s been nearly one year since an EF-3 tornado ripped through the town of Lockett leaving a path of destruction. For some, there’s still a long way to go.
“I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Texas A&M Agri-Life and Seed manager Sean Stephens said.
May 4, 2022, in the small town of Lockett.
“It was a normal day,” Lockett resident Paul Stolle said. “I went to work and got home, and there had been storm warnings all day.”
As for Sean, he knew from the start of the day that something just wasn’t right.
“That morning, the air, it just didn’t feel right,” Sean said. “I actually lived through the ’79 tornado, and the way the atmosphere, the pressure it just didn’t feel right.”
That night when Sean returned home, he thought they were in the clear.
“I was watching the weather, watching you guys, and at about 9 p.m., it was confirmed there was a tornado on the ground 9 miles south of Lockett moving due east,” Sean said. “So, we felt we had nothing to worry about. Then, we lost power.”
The tornado quickly shifted north towards Lockett, so Paul headed to shelter.
“I went to the west end of my house, and I looked out and saw a flash of lightning, and I saw my trailer house doing this at me, and just a tremendous boom, and that was it,” Sean said. “Then, it was lights out.”
Sean said it’s something he never wants to experience again.
“The whole house was shaking, and I don’t want to go through that again,” Sean said. “One thing that sticks out in my mind is I was standing holding the door, and I was holding it because it was trying to pull it out of my hand.”
For Sean, his home wasn’t the only thing affected by this storm.
“I’ve been working for Foundation Seed for 23 years, and when I came up, of course by this time it’s really really dark. There are not any lights on anywhere, but when I walked into the building that’s right behind where we’re at, and I could see stars at that time, I knew something wasn’t good,” Sean said. “Then I found a flashlight and started looking around, and to be honest with you, I just wanted to fall to my knees.”
For Paul, the tornado was just the start.
“We were without power for several days, and it’s just mostly getting out and cleaning up every day,” Paul said.
For Sean, it was even greater.
“There were about three weeks there where you’re shell-shocked,” Sean said. “You were just kind of going through the motions. You knew things had to be done, and you were trying to get them done, but it took about three or four weeks before you finally came back to earth.”
It was during this time, Sean and Paul saw how incredible the people of Lockett and the surrounding communities are because even though their worlds had been turned upside down, they had helped to put their lives back together.
“I just called some of my people who are really good with the hospitality and serve on our hospitality team and said, ‘hey, we need to come out here we’ve got these Highline crews, we’ve got people with nothing, no power so we need to set up and feed them, or do whatever we can,” Western Trails Cowboy Church Pastor Luke Morrison said.
That help from Morrison and others was much appreciated by those affected by the storm.
“The citizens of this county, Wilbarger County, are next to none,” Sean said. “We had so many people come out and help.”
Paul said they didn’t have to worry about anything extra like what they are going to eat or drink.
“Got a lot of food donated,” Paul said. “Had kind of like a community kitchen there for days. Folks came out and brought, I mean, oh my goodness you would not believe the amount of things they brought, water, people just out picking up.”
Now, almost a year later, the town of Lockett has been picked up and put back together, but there’s still work to be done.
“We still lack a few things,” Paul said. “The siding on our house, we can’t seem to get it in, but other than that, everything is back to normal.”
In fact, the seed facility isn’t even up and running yet.
“The shoot date for having us functioning again is the end of this September,” Sean said. “It’s what we are shooting for. All of our buildings are still at Foundation Seed and at the research center, the main building is going to have to be completely rebuilt. I’ve got some structures at my place that will need to be torn down to the ground and completely rebuilt.”
Even through all of the destruction this tornado left, including nearly $15 million in damages to the seed facility and research center, Sean said he was able to take some good out of it.
“We just put in last week our last bin. We have 12 new grain bins, 2,700 bushels, smooth-walled up right bins,” Sean said. “I had eight bins at that time, and as I mentioned, those bins were probably 30 to 40 years old. They probably needed a lot of work done to them, and if you look at something as bad as this and try to look at the good side of this, that was a God send.”
Trying to find a little light on an otherwise dark and cloudy day.
We will have more of these weather specials every Wednesday night for the month of March on Texoma’s Fox at 9 p.m. and also on KFDX at 10 p.m. They will then re-air the next morning as well.