Ted and Mandy Swartz's house before and after the tornado. * Photos from Mandy Swartz.

Two Cutting Families take Direct hit from Tornado in Oklahoma

Tornados ravaged Oklahoma on the night of April 27, causing 4 deaths and many home and property losses. Near Marietta, one tornado was preliminarily rated an EF-4 on the Enhanced Frujita Scale, the state’s first violent tornado in eight years Fox Weather reported. That same tornado shredded through the outskirts of Marietta, Oklahoma and directly hit the homes of Wayne & Amber Czisny and Ted & Mandy Swartz.

The properties all sit near or on what was formerly the Polo Ranch Stallion Station. Susie Reed, Sale Manager of The Marketplace at Ardmore, also lives in the near vicinity and lost two horses in the storm.

“I almost think they were picked up by the cloud,” Reed said. “You know in a storm horses will stand right up against each other and they were way far apart in our pasture.”

Many of Reed’s fencing was ruined but the structures on her property remained standing. Her neighbors weren’t as lucky.

The Dollar Tree distribution center outside of Marietta, Oklahoma was hit during late April tornados. * Photo by Katie Houck, Lazy KT Performance Horses

Wayne & Amber Czisny

The tornado sirens in Marietta weren’t properly working that night, so the Czisny’s didn’t have much time to take cover. Luckily, Wayne knew what a tornado sounded like and sounded the alarm for Amber to take cover.

“I woke up to Wayne yelling ‘Get Up!’ and he was running out the door to our carport and I was following him. Lightning had lit up the sky and he looked to the southwest and he said ‘Run!’ He said, ‘Grab the dogs and get to the bathtub now,’ which the most interior room [of the house] was the bathroom.”

Even six days after the event, Amber could recount the events of the evening with clarity.

“We ran down there and I got in the tub and he was handing me all three dogs. He closed the door and got in the tub with me. It was literally a count of 3-2-1 and it hit, so there was not really any good notice that there was actually a tornado on the ground,” she explained.

Before falling asleep, Amber had been watching the news and knew that tornados had touched down farther north in Oklahoma. Then a tornado warning came through on her phone about 15 minutes before it hit their house.

Once it was over, Wayne moved enough debris that the two could exit their house and get to another safe location. Their home is considered a total loss. Anything not destroyed by the Oklahoma tornado was left exposed to the elements and soaked by rain.

Ted & Mandy Swartz

Mandy Swartz shares a similar account of the night’s events. Her home also took a direct hit and is considered a total loss. Built in 1905, their house was the original ranch house to Polo Ranch, previously home to top stallions Soula Jule Star and Gallo Del Ciello ‘Rooster’. Mandy and Ted didn’t know the tornado was coming until windows in their home started breaking.

Later, Mandy was told the age of the structure and way it was built likely made a big difference in her and Ted’s safety.

A semi trailer lay blocking Ted and Mandy Swartz’s driveway after the EF-4 Oklahoma tornado hit on April 27. * Photo from Mandy Swartz

“My insurance adjuster said, if we were in any type of newer structure, we wouldn’t be standing here having a conversation,” Swartz said. “He said there’s no way the house could have taken what this one did, just because of the way they were built back then versus now. We have a storm cellar, but we didn’t have time to get in it and how we didn’t loose more animals is beyond me, other than God looking out for all of us.”

The Swartz’s lost a donkey and one good cat, but all six of their dogs and their horses were alive.

“Just the sound and hearing it ripping apart, it is everything that they say about a freight train and just this roaring rumble. And, I could hear it coming so I started yelling at my husband, ‘Get in the hall! Get in the hall!’ And, there was no time. The debris was hitting the house and the windows were going out,” Swartz recalled.

“It seemed like it was forever, but I’m sure it only lasted a couple of minutes,” Swartz said.

The Swartz were able to escape their house through the back door, but quickly learned they were trapped on their property by a semi trailer that had been thrown off of Interstate 35.

Their horse trainer, Rowdy Larson, jumped into action and was able to move the semi out of the way with a tractor so that the Swartz’s two geldings could be taken to safety. Between the debris from the destroyed Dollar Tree Distribution Center and the ruined fencing, their pastures were no longer safe for horses or livestock.

The couple had hoped to stay in an apartment located in a shop on their property, but enough of the roof had been damaged that the apartment received water damage in the hours following the Oklahoma tornado.

Helping Hands

Cutters came together in this time of great need. Della Hillerman, show secretary for The Ike, helped provide some communication for Czisnys in the days following the tornado and provided an address where people could send help from afar.

Amber Czisny later stated that money really can help in a situation like this, mostly to help find housing and pay rent for those that are forced to rebuild. Mandy Swartz pointed out that locally, water and food are helpful. Clothing is thoughtful, but those that have lost their homes may not have space to keep or sort through clothing. Donations to disaster response groups are also helpful year-round.

Shona and Ed Dufurrena were able to provide housing to the Swartz family until they are able to live in their apartment and rebuild their home.

The American Red Cross set up in the town of Marietta and provided meals to locals as well as volunteers who were mainly tasked with clearing debris. The agency also provided tetanus shots to anyone who might need one.

“I’ve just been so impressed with the people that volunteer to help, and it’s hot and humid and wet here and just exhausting,” Reed said.

Minuteman Disaster Response teams were also in Marietta helping to clear debris and salvage what could be saved. This spring they have been deployed to; Canadian, Texas; Milton, Kentucky, Louisville; Kentucky, Slidell, Louisiana and Sulphur, Oklahoma.

Recent Extreme Weather

Unfortunately, other members of the equine industry also have faced extreme weather in recent days. On the night of Sat., May 4, a major flash flood swept through the Circle T Arena and Resort facility nearby Hamilton, Texas taking with it two horse trailers and the lives of two dogs.

On Monday May 6, another Oklahoma tornado directly hit Bartlesville and Barnsdall, Oklahoma leaving one dead. According to Fox Weather, search and rescue efforts are ongoing.