E50 vs. EF5 Tornado: One Bobcat Salesman’s Terrifying Story

Published on August 23, 2016

If you live in the notorious Tornado Alley in south-central U.S., dangerous weather is a part of life. Sales manager Gregg Thompson has sold and rented many Bobcat machines to help with tornado cleanup, but in May 2013, he and his family were the ones in need of equipment and help.

Thompson is an Oklahoma native and employee of Total Equipment and Rental, which owns several Bobcat dealerships. Here he shares the events of May 20, 2013, when an EF5 tornado ripped through his town and changed his life forever.

Storm Warning

Storms were inevitable that day. Thompson remembers the National Weather Service alerts warning that conditions were favorable for a tornado. “All the ingredients for a storm were there,” he says. As the day went on, the storm began to build.

By early afternoon, a tornado had formed southwest of Moore. Thompson watched from the showroom of Bobcat of Oklahoma City as television reporters described the 1.3-mile wide path of destruction that sounded like it was headed for his home. Thompson tried calling his wife, who was at the grocery store, but was unable to reach her on her cell phone so he called the landline at his home. One of his three sons answered and Thompson urged his family to leave for a tornado shelter as soon as possible. Moments later Thompson’s wife arrived home and grabbed the phone from her son.

“‘You’ve got to go!’ I told them. ‘There’s traffic everywhere, I don’t think we’ll make it!’ my wife was saying.

Then the call dropped and that was the last thing I heard.

“I called back and the call failed. Call … fail. Call … fail. Can’t get through. So I tear out of the office and am following behind in the path of the tornado so that it’s about 20 minutes in front of me.” Thompson remembers. “On the radio, the guy’s going bananas about how bad it is, how big it is, and that it’s traveling straight down 149th Street. Well we live on 149th Place, and the tornado is a mile wide.”

Unrecognizable

When he arrived near his home, less than an hour after he had last heard from his wife, his once familiar neighborhood was unrecognizable and his home, where he raised his children and lived for over 20 years, was destroyed. The grass in the lawns was gone and familiar buildings had seemingly disappeared.

“When I finally start to see the damage, I freak out and think my whole family is buried in my house,” he says. But moments later, he received a text message from his wife that they’d made it to the shelter and were safe.

The storm that destroyed the Thompson’s home was the second EF5 tornado—the most severe level of categorization—to hit Moore in the past 15 years. In 1999 a tornado tore through the town, killing 36 people and causing over a billion dollars in damage. Thompson knew people affected by this and other tornados. Each time, the community quickly unites behind those in need.

After filling a pickup truck and a Camaro with as much salvageable materials as they could hold, Thompson and his family began what would be a long and chaotic year. Each day presented new challenges, but Thompson focused on what was in his control.

“You just start going through the process and try not to worry about the big picture,” Thompson says. “You’ve got to focus on the next step, otherwise it can be very overwhelming.”

Help From an E50

The first step in rebuilding was demolishing and removing what was left of his house. Faith-based organization Christ in Action helped community members hit by the storm clear out debris. The organization stopped at Bobcat of Oklahoma City to purchase an E50 compact excavator from Thompson to help homeowners, who were responsible for moving what was left of their destroyed homes into the street. When Christ in Action volunteers learned that their salesman’s home had been destroyed, they helped clear his land and supported the family through the difficult day.

The Thompsons have rebuilt their home and now have the added protection of a storm cellar. Every day Thompson is thankful that his family is alive and safe. “At the end of the day, what we lost is just stuff,” he says. “It’s obviously not something you can prepare for, but if it does happen to you, don’t be afraid to ask for help because you’re going to need it.”

It’s been in finding this strength that Thompson discovered just how strong and important his family and community really are.

Total Equipment and Rental employees are attending Christ in Action training this summer so they can help assist people in crisis. You and your team can find local volunteer opportunities and training events through the American Red Cross.

More Recent Stories

View All Stories
Bobcat Toolcat Purchase Inspires Bobcat-Style Bed Dash on His Bobcat Skid-Steer Inspired Bed

Bobcat Toolcat Purchase Inspires Bobcat-Style Bed

When the Kowalonek family purchased their Bobcat Toolcat utility work machine, it created inspiration for a Bobcat-style bed to overcome a bedtime challenge.
Bobcat Equipment Grows Indiana Couple’s Outdoor Business Andrea Mohr with Bobcat T595 Compact Track Loader at Jobsite

Bobcat Equipment Grows Indiana Couple’s Outdoor Business

Discover how a Bobcat compact track loader helped Andrea and Benjamin Mohr grow their business from small landscaping projects to a full-service outdoor business.
Bobcat Equipment Powers Regenerative Farming at Blufftop Farm Check Family Standing in Front of Cattle on Blufftop Farm

Bobcat Equipment Powers Regenerative Farming at Blufftop Farm

Discover how a single Bobcat skid-steer loader provides all the power needed for regenerative farming practices by the Check Family at Blufftop Farm in Wisconsin.
Carla Beltran Sustainable Dream with Bobcat Equipment Carla Beltran Climbs Into Her Bobcat T66 Compact Track Loader Equipped With a Brushcat Rotary Cutter Attachment

Carla Beltran Sustainable Dream with Bobcat Equipment

Discover how Carla Beltran uses Bobcat Equipment to make her dream come true of creating a sustainable living on her homestead, and a haven for all to enjoy.
Bobcat Partners with the NRPA for Park Restoration A Bobcat Zero-Turn Mower and Giant $50,000 Check Sit Near a Forest

Bobcat Partners with the NRPA for Park Restoration

Bobcat has partnered with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) by awarding five $50,000 grants to support park restoration, sustainability and enhancements.
Three Generations of Bobcat Engineers: The Asche Family Drew Asche operating Bobcat compact track loader.

Three Generations of Bobcat Engineers: The Asche Family

Discover the legacy at Bobcat with three generations of the Asche family men bringing innovation, advancements and dedication as engineers over the last 50 years.
Musician Randy Brown’s Ranch Management with Bobcat Equipment Randy Brown at His Ranch With a Bobcat Small Articulated Loader

Musician Randy Brown’s Ranch Management with Bobcat Equipment

Tune into how Western Colorado musician Randy Brown uses Bobcat equipment to navigate the balance between hard work and enjoyment, both on and off his ranches.
Athena Valanofeld Tackles Abandoned Acreage with CT2025 A Bobcat CT2025 Compact Tractor On A White Background

Athena Valanofeld Tackles Abandoned Acreage with CT2025

Unearth the story of Athena Valanofeld an Albuquerque Fire Rescue lieutenant and mother-to-be, tackling an abandoned acreage for her family with a Bobcat CT2025.
Highline Landscaping Stands Out with Bobcat Mowers Brent Mitchell of Highline Landscaping stands in a pose on a customer’s lawn near his Bobcat ZS4000 zero-turn stand-on mower.

Highline Landscaping Stands Out with Bobcat Mowers

Discover how Brent Mitchell, owner of Highline Landscaping achieves his wholehearted mission to serve people and deliver exceptional results with his Bobcat Mowers.
Sagona Landscape Relies on Bobcat Equipment in New York City Bobcat MT100 Mini Track Loader Studio Image on White Background

Sagona Landscape Relies on Bobcat Equipment in New York City

Discover how the sibling owned and operated Sagona Landscape Contracting relies on Bobcat Equipment in New York City for transforming landscaping in tight spaces.

What’s Your Bobcat Story?

Taking on big, ambitious challenges is what being One Tough Animal® is all about. Tell us how Bobcat empowers or inspires you to accomplish more. Whether it’s at work, at play or in life, share your story with us.

Share Your Story