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Shelter from a storm
Gunter family
Colton, Trace, Pam and Brody Gunter in what’s left of their home after the April 5 tornado.

When Trace and Pam Gunter built their dream home on 30 acres off CC Road five years ago, Trace insisted they include a safe room.

“He grew up in Oklahoma,” Pam said Saturday.

That’s Oklahoma, the state known for its tornadoes.

“I said if we ever built a house, I was going to get us a concrete, rebar-reinforced, real, legit tornado shelter,” Trace said. The safe room paid off for the Gunter family on Tuesday, April 5, when a tornado touched down in North Bryan. Trace was trying to get home from his job in Springfield. Pam and her sons, Colton and Brody, had just gotten there when the weather alerts started pinging on Pam’s phone.

And when she heard roaring, she rounded up both sons and the family dog, Mando, and went into the safe room – which doubles as Pam’s closet.

It has a steel door and has reinforced concrete walls eight inches thick.

Pam, an accountant by profession and the District 1 representative on the Bryan County Bord of Education, said as she leaned against the wall she could feel it pulsating.

“I was screaming the entire time,” she said. “Then it was gone.”

She said they knew things were bad when they saw light from the sky coming in through air vents. That meant the roof was gone, and a lot of the house with it.

But the safe room was still there.

“I’m no expert, but I always said it would handle an EF4,” Trace said.

The one that touched down April 4 was either a high EF3 or low EF4. The safe room was still standing.

Pam shot video as she and her sons and family dog left the safe room, making a record of their reaction to the mess the tornado had made of their home. That video has gotten a lot of attention online.

But it was from photos posted online by others that Pam realized what she and her sons had survived.

“I did not realize how huge it was,” she said. “And then it was, ‘me and the boys lived through that.’ That’s what got me then.’” By Wednesday, the house was gone as volunteers worked to remove debris.

The safe room is still standing, Pam said.

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