SteelMaster steel building survives F4 tornado in Oklahoma

When James Cobb hunkered down in his home in McCloud, Oklahoma with his three cats and two parrots on May 19, the Vietnam veteran had no idea he would be riding out a F4 tornado. The storm produced winds between 207 mph and 260 mph, leaving “devastating damage” in its wake.

Despite the howling winds, James wasn’t afraid. There isn’t much that scares him these days. While serving our country in Vietnam, he was a member of one of the elite Combat Tracker Teams, which worked alongside highly trained Labrador Retrievers to locate missing soldiers and recover the wounded and fallen.

Once James realized he survived the storm, he snapped a few pictures of his barely-scathed SteelMaster building and sent them to SteelMaster’s home office in Virginia Beach, Virginia via email.

His email simply read, “Hit by F4 tornado – a good building.”

SteelMaster knew right then that there was definitely more to this story.

The end wall in one of the photos James sent depicts a very small portion of the roof damaged with an accordion effect, which will be no problem to remedy. The tornado also unscrewed and scattered several bolts from the building — again, no problem to replace.

James has every reason to be amazed at the strength of his SteelMaster building. SteelMaster guarantees that when built as specified, its structures will withstand hurricane force winds of up to 80 mph. But time and time again, the company receives photos from customers who cannot fathom that their buildings withstood so much more.

To SteelMaster, these people are amazing. Instead of counting their losses, they take the time to call, write or email to say how grateful they are that they purchased a SteelMaster arched steel building.

When interviewed for this story, James shared his gratitude for having a building that’s still standing and relatively intact, even after an F4.

“My SteelMaster is a quality building, that’s for sure,” he says. “My house has rooms missing and was riddled with holes. Thank goodness my SteelMaster is still standing, because I have most of my stuff from my home stored in there until construction [on my house] is finished. I feel more than confident my possessions will remain safe, dry and secure.”

Unfortunately, James suffered more losses from the tornado than damage to his personal property.

As the freight-train sounds of the tornado grew closer, he gathered his cats and birds thinking, “If you guys go, well, I’m going with you.”

James’ dogs were outside when the storm hit and unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found afterward. He lost one of two peacocks he owned. He also lost one of the two parrots he brought inside his home during the storm.

“My parrot was just pulled upward and away,” he says.

Serving in Vietnam and living in Tornado Alley may have taken a lot out of James, but compassion for animals and humans is not on that list.

He often volunteers at the American Legion, sharing his time and helping veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Another thing he likes to do is share his stories of how the human spirit can triumph over the odds. If you happen to be privileged enough to speak with James, it would not be unusual for him to brag a little about the SteelMaster building he owns and the fact it still stands proudly on his property. He is certainly not the only SteelMaster owner to do so.

– Tammy Kistler

Tammy is a freelance writer and lives in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

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