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MORE THAN ITEMS: Barnsdall tornado victims' belongings found in Kansas

Posted at 5:09 PM, May 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 18:57:51-04

BARNSDALL, Okla. — People in Kansas are working to help the Barnsdall tornado victims after finding their family photos blown across the state line.

When an EF4 tornado strikes, the winds can carry debris for miles. That's exactly what happened with all kinds of items in Barnsdall on Monday night.

Now, people from out of state are collecting them and turning to social media to find the owners.
Tornado victim, Melissa Pearson, said photos of her cousins and late grandmother were recovered.

"It's insane the amount of pictures of mine that have been found, especially the pictures of my grandma," said Pearson. "I'm so grateful that they're finding all these pictures. I've had people mail them to me."

Nick Davis lives nearly 60 miles away from Barnsdall in Coffeyville, Kansas.

After Monday night's tornado, he saw friends posting pictures on Facebook of not only debris but precious memories.

It inspired him to begin his search.

"We just happened to be driving and all of a sudden I look down, I see this black square just in the middle of the pasture. And I thought 'That don't look right.'. I pull up and it's a picture of a little girl in a pool," Davis said.

He also stumbled upon a Christmas program, pay stubs, bank statements, and a restaurant menu from Bartlesville.

So how could these belongings travel so far?

2 News Oklahoma's Chief Meteorologist, Michael Seger, said it's not unheard of.

"It's not uncommon for, you know, pieces of paper, photographs to travel great distances, especially after a violent tornado. What's happening is you get so much rising motion within the tornado that those lighter objects are literally being sucked up into the thunderstorm's updraft," he explained. "They can be carried five, maybe six miles up into the storm."

Seger also noted that the powerful updrafts within the storm can suspend objects for miles before they eventually fall back to the ground.

It's hard for many to fathom how a tornado can flatten a structure but keep a photograph in mint condition. Thanks to social media, they're finding their way back home.

Davis said he used Facebook to track down the photo's owner, and a Good Samaritan volunteered to deliver it.

"It made me and my wife feel really good. We're, I mean, I wish we could do more," said Davis. "People are just, they're very thankful for those little things."

As the people of Barnsdall rebuild, Davis hopes this act of kindness shines a light during a dark time.

Like Davis, there are dozens of others finding these items. It's all being posted in a Facebook group called "Barnsdall Tornado Recovered Items."

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