By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff
The only Logan resident to be hospitalized after the tornado that hit March 23, Tamie Elam, 42, has a message for everyone: “Take tornado watches and warnings seriously,” she said. “Go somewhere safe.”
Elam spoke via telephone from her parents’ home in Liberal, Kan., where she is recovering.
“I think the one thing that I’ve learned throughout this whole thing is that we don’t take the watches and warnings seriously enough. We are way too nonchalant about them. I’ve been ‘round tornadoes all my life … We don’t take ‘em serious enough.”
She’s been nicknamed the “Tornado Girl” by insurance adjusters and been told “Dorothy came back for Kansas,” Elam said.
She even has her own Toto, “Rope,” a 16-year-old blue heeler, who shared the harrowing experience with her.
Elam, who worked at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Tucumcari, had lived in Logan about a year-and-a-half when the tornado struck.
She was knocked around inside her 30-foot, fifth-wheel trailer home and spit out on her hands and knees onto the ground at the Arrowhead Trailer Park in the Paradise Hills section in northeast Logan.
She now faces three months of healing and rehabilitation because of injuries sustained from the tornado, Elam said.
“I cracked the socket of one of my hip bones. I have several fractures in my pelvis. The last bone in my backbone is fractured. My ankle is swollen and I’ve got bruises all over. I took a shower today (Thursday) and I took a piece of glass out of my ankle,” said Elam.
She cannot put any weight on her left side and has to use a walker to give her bones a chance to heal and prevent further fractures, Elam said.
The stormy day that turned Elam’s life upside down “looked like a normal rain storm coming,” Elam said.
Because she thought it was going to rain, she took Rope out for a walk.
After stepping up into her trailer, she left the door open. “I kicked off my shoes and then the electricity went out. There was a gust of wind and I saw some (cardboard) storage boxes hit my truck. I shut the door.
“Then the trailer starting moving and I saw the TV hit my dog. The trailer flipped over and hit my pickup. It spun a couple of times. I just remember it going sideways and I kept trying to stand up. The next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees. I tried to stand up and I couldn’t get up. I finally stood up and looked around. I remember thinking that it would come back and I was all by myself. I saw some white pickups with sirens go by. I waved my hands, but they didn’t see me. Then some friends across the street, Casey and Jennifer, came over. Then Steve Osborn came up.”
“She was pretty shaken up,” said Osborn, who was driving from Ute Lake toward Logan. “The tornado cut us off.
“We saw the funnel, and we headed back the way we came. When we saw the funnel and tail was headed the other way, we came back. But there was debris and everything on the road, so we had to come back the long way. By the time my son (Cimmaron) and I got to Tamie, she was hysterical. We had to hold her up (until rescue came), because she’d couldn’t stand up and she couldn’t sit down.”
Elam said the Osborns are her heroes, and “they’ve really been good to me.”
Osborn said it looked like Elam’s trailer had flipped three times. “She was about 75 feet from where her trailer had been,” said Osborn.
Her blue heeler was found under what was left of one piece of her trailer about 100 feet away, said Osborn. The frame of her trailer had been hurled in another direction.
“The dog came through it better than I did,” said Elam. But since he’s returned to Kansas, if the weather turns, he wants to be outside, she said.
Elam was rushed that Friday afternoon by Logan EMS to Dan Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari. She stayed until early Saturday morning when she was transported by ambulance to another hospital in Albuquerque.
Elam said she was thankful to the ladies who traveled with her. “It was storming and I was freaking out because of the wind. I was strapped down and I was afraid there would be another tornado and we’d tip over. They just kept me calm and promised me it wouldn’t happen again. I told them, ‘I can’t do another rollover,’ They were wonderful.”
Elam said she stayed in Albuquerque Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and then went to the home of her parents, Rose and Kenneth Griffith, in Liberal.
On the way to Liberal, she stopped at Logan.
“The Red Cross was really good to me, they really helped me out,” she said. She saw the debris and recognized some of her belongings stuck in fences. “I really wished I hadn’t looked,” she said.
Elam said she’s unsure what the future will bring after her three-month healing process, but she says, “I’m definitely going to have a place with a cellar.”
Unfortunately, she had no insurance on her fifth wheel. “I had just bought it Monday and took it down there (to the Arrowhead Trailer Park) Tuesday. I was going to drive to Liberal and get the insurance, license tags done here. But I just waited a week too long. All my stuff is gone, blown away.
“Steve saved a couple of pairs of jeans and they did find my purse. I’d put away some money for oral surgery. You know how you put away money so you won’t spend it? I had a little over $300. It got blown away.
“But, it’s no big deal, I can walk and I’m alive.”