(CNN) — Call it maternal instinct.
As the monster tornado approached, Terimy Miller put her three sons in a closet in their Moore, Oklahoma, house.
But something didn’t feel right.
“It was just that feeling,” Miller told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday. “I just got to get out of here. I’m not chancing this.”
An aerial view of the destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck areas south of Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20, shows the magnitude of damage left in its path. The storm’s winds topped 200 mph as it carved a 17-mile path of destruction through Oklahoma City suburbs. On Tuesday, May 21, CNN sent photographer David McNeese to capture the story from above:
The storm, which touched down near Newcastle, Oklahoma, spanned 1.3 miles. Some areas along the path were completely flattened.
Officials from the National Weather Service gave the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20 a preliminary EF5 rating — the highest score on the scale that measures tornado intensities.
The tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs, hitting the town of Moore the hardest. It packed winds that topped 200 mph.
A search-and-rescue effort to find survivors shifted Tuesday to one of recovery, officials said.
The devastation in Moore was so complete that the mayor said city officials were racing to print new street signs to help guide rescuers and residents through a suddenly twisted and unfamiliar landscape.
A group of homes was reduced to rubble.
Debris from homes and structures was strewn for miles around.
In some areas, the homes of an entire street were destroyed.
Rescuers and first responders immediately began searching through the rubble of structures on May 20.
Large trees were uprooted and flattened.
Given its breadth and power, the tornado ranks among some of the strongest storms ever to strike the United States, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Homes in some areas were relatively undamaged while others very nearby were destroyed.
Police, firefighters, volunteers and nearly 180 National Guard troops joined forces Tuesday in searching the rubble and securing areas hit by the storm.
In 1999 and then again in 2003, Moore took direct hits from tornadoes that took eerily similar paths to 2013′s twister. The 1999 storm packed the strongest wind speeds in history, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said.
A section of a bridge outside of Oklahoma City was blown off its foundation.
The path of the tornado is clearly visible with dirt and debris painting a wide path across the Oklahoma landscape.
The scene — block after block of flattened homes and businesses, the gutted remains of a hospital and hits on two elementary schools — left even seasoned veterans of Oklahoma’s infamous tornadoes reeling.
View more galleries: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma City area and The devastating Oklahoma tornado of 1999.
Photos: Destruction from above
Teachers from Fairview Elementary School help clean up former school counselor Kay Taylor’s home in south Oklahoma City, on Wednesday, May 22, two days after an extremely powerful tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma. View more photos of the aftermath in the region and another gallery of aerial shots of the damage.
Jake English, 12, cleans up retired school counselor Kay Taylor’s home on May 22 in south Oklahoma City, just west of Moore. The storm was part of a tornado outbreak that began in the Midwest and Plains on Sunday, May 19.
A man talks on his cell phone in front of a destroyed house on May 22.
A man looks through a pile of clothing at a roadside relief camp on May 22 in Moore.
Volunteers form a chain to retrieve clothing and other household items on May 22.
Jon Booth moves a piece of debris from his mother’s destroyed home across the street from Plaza Towers Elementary School on May 22.
Matt Johnson salvages items from his grandparents’ home on Tuesday, May 21.
Two men fold an American flag found in the debris of a house on May 21 in Moore.
A young girl stands among the rubble outside Briarwood Elementary School on May 21.
A doll covered in dirt is among the rubble scattered throughout a neighborhood in Moore on May 21.
Bonnie Lolofie, left, and Ashley Do carry belongings from their apartment, which has no power, on May 21.
Residents salvage belongings from their demolished homes in Moore on May 21.
Kelli Kannady weeps after finding a box of photographs of her late husband in the rubble near where her home once stood in Moore on May 21.
Tufts of pink insulation hang from the rafters of a store in Moore on May 21 that was destroyed in the storm.
Natalie Johnson searches through her mother’s destroyed car outside Briarwood Elementary School in Moore on May 21.
Rescuers dig out a house in Moore on May 21.
June Simson embraces her cat Sammi after she found him standing among the rubble of her destroyed home in Moore on May 21.
A man stands on the roof of a destroyed home in Moore on May 21.
A man helps move a resident’s belongings from a destroyed home on May 21 in Moore.
Air Force Airman First Class Justin Acord sifts through the rubble of his father-in-law’s home in Moore on May 21.
People recover belongings from the rubble of a home in Moore.
People sort through a leveled home in Moore on May 21.
Debris lies among headstones in the Moore Cemetery on May 21.
Workers clean up the Warren movie theater in Moore on May 21.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett surveys damage in Moore on May 21.
Piles of debris lie around the north side of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore on May 21.
As dawn breaks, storm clouds roll in over a devastated neighborhood in Moore on May 21.
Members of the Oklahoma National Guard look for survivors in rubble in Moore on May 21.
A National Guardsman assists in the search for victims on May 21.
A rescue worker leads a horse from the wreckage of a day care center and barns on Monday, May 20, in Moore.
Men tie an American flag on debris in a neighborhood off Telephone Road in Moore on May 20.
Children wait for their parents to arrive at Briarwood Elementary School in south Oklahoma City on May 20.
Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary School on May 20.
Teachers lead children away from Briarwood Elementary School on May 20. Read more about the photo.
A fire official drives through the rubble of Moore Medical Center on May 20.
Abby Madi, left, and Peterson Zatterlee comfort Zatterlee’s dog, Rippy, on Monday, May 20, in Moore.
A woman is treated for her injuries on May 20 at a triage area set up for the wounded.
Two girls stand in rubble in Moore.
Rescue workers help free one of more than a dozen people who were trapped at a medical center in Moore on May 20.
Oklahoma City firefighters check on Gene Tripp on May 20 as he sits in his rocking chair where his home once stood.
A nurse helps an older man who suffered a head injury on May 20 in Moore.
Cars marked with an orange X, meaning they have been checked for occupants, are piled up in front of the entrance to the damaged Moore Medical Center on May 20.
Jim Routon hugs his neighbor, 7-year-old Hezekiah, after the tornado strikes on May 20. An earlier version of this caption incorrectly stated that Routon was Hezekiah’s teacher. See an interview with the pair.
People look through the wreckage of their neighborhood after a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20.
Dana Ulepich searches inside a room left standing at the back of her destroyed house in Moore on May 20.
Residents look through the debris in Moore on May 20.
A man looks through the remains of a home after the massive tornado struck Moore on May 20.
A woman is transported on a stretcher after she was rescued from the damaged medical center in Moore on May 20.
A woman walks through debris in Moore on May 20.
A man is taken away from the IMAX Theater in Moore that was used as a triage center on May 20.
A girl wraps herself in a blanket near the Moore Hospital on May 20.
A nurse walks by the destruction at a Moore hospital on May 20.
Destroyed cars scatter the landscape in Moore, Oklahoma, where hundreds of homes and buildings were put to ruin on May 20.
A woman with an arm injury is helped on May 20 in Moore.
Extensive damage from the tornado destroyed cars and demolished structures in Moore on May 20.
Onlookers stop to view a portion of the destruction left behind on May 20 in Moore.
Overturned cars are among the rubble from the tornado that hit Moore on May 20.
A woman is comforted after the May 20 tornado in Moore.
A shredded tree stands amid debris in the aftermath of the storm in Moore on May 20.
A shopping center parking lot is covered with debris and damaged cars on May 20.
Law enforcement officers block a roadway in Moore where there was extensive damage from the tornado.
A massive tornado approaches Moore on May 20. The storm first touched down to the west of the city near Newcastle, Oklahoma. Visit CNN.com/impact for ways to help the victims.
Photos: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma
So she put her three boys — ages 11, 7 and 6 — in the family car.
She was moving so fast that she couldn’t round up the two family dogs, which were somewhere outside.
As they prepared their escape, she and son Jules heard a local weatherman on television advise families in Moore that if they didn’t have a storm shelter, they should abandon the house.
“We got away from the storm,” said son Jules, 7.
Confirmation of the mother’s intuition came when she and her boys returned to the house.
Miller hyperventilated. She cried.
The tornado had annihilated the home.
“We walk up and it’s gone,” Miller said. “I’m like, no, this can’t be happening. Why?
“It’s a war zone,” she said.
Added her son: “The thunderstorm took away all my favorite stuff. It’s gone.”
Miller lost the sentimental photos, yearbooks, and mementos from her days in the Navy. Her memories will now have to suffice, she said.
As for the dogs, they survived, but one of them will lose his right eye, injured by the twister.
Despite the material losses, Miller counts her blessings.
“We’re lucky: I have my children and everything will be OK,” she said.
The family will rebuild the home, she added.
Article source: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/22/us/oklahoma-tornado-mother-instinct/index.html?eref=edition
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