News Sentinel reporter Mike Strange describes scene in Oklahoma City after tornado passes through
Editor's Note: As of early Saturday morning, five were known dead and at least 50 hurt from the tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area Friday evening, where the Lady Vols are for the Women's College World Series.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Instead of a softball stadium, an underground parking garage was home field for Tennessee’s Lady Vols here Friday night.
The Women’s College World Series comes back to the surface Saturday to reset after being postponed by a tornado that swept through the area early Friday evening.
“I can only hope our minds will be on softball,’’ co-head coach Ralph Weekly said Friday night at the Sheraton Hotel, a few blocks north of the tornado’s path through downtown. Authorities said two people were killed.
The Lady Vols were supposed to play Washington at 7 p.m., in a winners’ bracket game.
That game has been reset for Saturday (TV: ESPN2, noon), to be followed by the other postponed winners’ bracket game between Oklahoma and Texas. Rain, however, might still be an issue.
Friday, at roughly the time the Lady Vols and Huskies were supposed to be starting at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Weekly and his wife, co-head coach Karen Weekly, were herding the team and their families underground.
A delay had already been announced with a severe weather front forming west of town.
Meanwhile, the entire area was bracing for another tornado, less than two weeks after the one that devastated the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing nearly two dozen people.
“We were glued to the television,’’ Ralph Weekly said. “We sat around until we heard the storms were about 20 minutes away.
“So we gathered all our girls and told them to get to the shelter. The sirens hadn’t gone off yet but having lived here when I was director of the national team, I knew it was time to get to the shelter.’’
The shelter was two levels down in an underground garage.
At least three other teams were also in the garage.
“There were 400 or 500 people down there,’’ Weekly said, “and our kids handled it really well.
“They were very mature and very organized. That’s their character. I didn’t see any panic or anything like that. A couple of the younger children that came along were crying, including my granddaughter.’’
The wait lasted about an hour. With intense rain bearing down, the roof began leaking. Then a water main in the garage broke, spraying a gusher.
“It was kind of scary down there,’’ Weekly said. “The lights went out a couple of times. But they were calm and said a few prayers.
“We found out Florida had gone to (the University of) Oklahoma (in Norman) to practice and got stranded in the Oklahoma football stadium by the second storm coming through. So we said a prayer for them, too.’’
What effect the storm and delay will have on the tournament remains to be seen.
Tennessee opened with an impressive 9-2 win over Florida on Thursday.
“There’s a lot going on right now,’’ Weekly said.
“I think the training we have had, having been through the debacle up at Missouri when we had to play three games in 19 hours, and all the rainouts in postseason, I think we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.’’
Follow Mike Strange on Twitter at Strangemike44?.