NewsLocal News


'Feels like chaos': Welch family recounts escaping home during storm

Posted at 7:25 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 20:25:58-04

WELCH, Okla. — May 6's storms struck the town of Welch, where its school gymnasium became the epicenter of destruction, plus a family's home was battered with debris while they were inside.

In the meantime, professional companies like Gilman Excavation Services are taking care of houses for free.

"It's very necessary in a small community like this," owner Donavin Gilman told 2 News. "I mean, with the times the way it is, it's hard to make money and it's hard for families to be able to afford to have some of this stuff done."

More from the damage in Welch:

Welch classes canceled after gym destroyed in storm

For the Miller family, who attends and works at Welch Public Schools, virtually their whole lives will have to be rebuilt after bearing the brunt of the gym's collapse. They described their oldest son coming within inches of flying glass and metal when the family was trying to sleep.

"We don't know that this is happening down here, but our oldest son is in the bedroom and all this stuff crashes through his window and through his doors," Brandon Miller said. "So we can hear him yelling in fear and we are upstairs trying to get shoes on so we can come downstairs and yelling at him to just stay down. And then we make it downstairs. He had to crawl through glass and stuff just to get where he feels safe."

"(At that point) the roof from the gym is all in our street and in our yard and on the walkway," Miller added. "And so I'm trying to just make sure we don't walk on (pieces) from the roof and cut ourselves. So we're trying to find a path in the pouring rain and wind still, so yeah there's a lot of fast decision-making and what feels like chaos."


The feeling of both loss and lives being preserved began to sink in, he said.

"A couple nights ago when this was happening, the emotions were just fear and just, 'Get to safety,' Miller said. "We've processed through a lot of the fear. And now it's just, 'What do we do?' We don't have our home right now.'"

The Millers said they are now staying with relatives.

April Miller -- a Welch High School English teacher, said more than 50 people in the town have since come to help them collect valuables from their all-but-condemned house and offer to help them rebuild and recover.

She said that makes them feel even more lucky.

"The way that it just feels like family, small towns get a lot of stereotypes, but it absolutely lives up to it," she said. "It's like a family. We just couldn't feel more safe and accepted and loved."

The school district said it will resume classes on May 9.

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --