Washington residents help their families in Oklahoma stay informed

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

SEATTLE - It is the least efficient method of "storm watching" around:  for Dana Batch in Marlowe, Oklahoma to get the severe storm forecasting she needs, her brother in Renton, Washington has to logon to the live streaming CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City on his computer, then call Dana in Oklahoma to tell her what they're saying.  Dana has no power and no radio.  Her cell phone is her only lifeline. 

From the safety of his Renton den, Robert Christian has been glued to the storm chasers and radar for the past day and a half, tracking the menacing blobs of pink and purple on the maps. 

"I'm like good God, you know," he told us. "So I can call her and say, Dana, this is what's happening, and she'll say how do you know? And I'll say because I can see it!"

 But that's not an option for everyone here in Western Washington, concerned about their loved ones in Tornado Alley.

"It was like bink, bink, bink, bink," Melissa Boggs of West Seattle mimicked the busy signal she got for eight hours as she tried to reach her parents and brother in Oklahoma City. 

She lived in Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas for several years, so she knows tornadoes.  She knows how mean and strong and random they can be. 

"Russian roulette in the sky," is how she refers to them.  She also knows that you have to be patient.  People caught in the storms often lose communication for extended periods of time, and they make helping

their neighbors a higher priority than just about anything else.  So, Melissa turned to the internet, especially Facebook, to catch whatever updates she could.  She saw one friend's home absolutely obliterated. 

Countless profile pictures changed to an outline of the state of Oklahoma.  One friend posted a new video after the tornado blew through.  She watched it with us. 

"This is bad folks, very bad," the person shooting the video said off camera as he showed a panoramic shot of the ruins that used to be a neighborhood in Moore. 

He swung over to a barely recognizable pickup truck bent like a spoon around a tree.  In the background, a dozen men stood on a pile of broken wood and busted concrete.  

"Apparently they're hearing voices from underneath," continued the narrator. "Every one of these piles could potentially have someone underneath."  The camera panned the entire scene. 

Pile after pile after pile.  Then, for the first time, you see the narrator's face.  He turned the camera on himself because he could not bear to film what was happening just yards away. 

"They just found a little girl over there," he said in a hollow voice. "And she's dead."

Melissa's little niece is okay tonight.  Melissa found out through her grandmother that the whole family was fine.  As she's looked through her friends’ profiles, she's seen that all her closest loved ones are okay.  Some have lost houses, many are shaken to the core.  But they're alive. 

The number of missing and dead is stunning in the relatively small town of Moore.  It's a town Melissa knew well from her years working at a news station there. 

She is braced to hear - eventually - that one of the dead is one of her friends.  Maybe a former neighbor, a former co-worker, or the child of a friend.  She is thankful the internet can bring her the latest news.

But it can't bring her closer.  " It's really hard not to be there to help, it's really hard not to be there to hug, it's really hard not to be there to count everybody's fingers and toes."