WILLISTON, N.D. — Pilot Liz Lillard was in Williston on Monday as she watched a live feed of a massive tornado pass over her children’s day care in Moore, Okla.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world to watch a tornado go over your two kids and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Lillard said.
Lillard, a contract pilot for Hiland Partners of Enid, Okla., flies workers to and from North Dakota, which is where she was when disaster struck Monday.
Lillard’s son and daughter, ages 2½ and 7 months, were safe in a storm shelter at their day care, but phone lines were down, so Lillard didn’t know for two hours that they were safe.
“It was torture,” she said.
Lillard wasn’t scheduled to fly the workers to Oklahoma until Tuesday, but they decided to return early so Lillard could reunite with her family Monday night.
The family’s home is “actually in pretty good condition,” even though houses as close as three doors down were leveled, Lillard said.
Lillard’s husband, who was at work in Oklahoma City during the tornado, came home to find that everyone was safe, including the dog that had been outside during the storm.
“It was mass chaos, but my dog was just sitting in our front yard,” Lillard said.
Jason Kindred, who works as a consultant for Statoil in Williston, also is from Moore and was working in North Dakota on Monday when the tornado hit his town.
Kindred, an employee of MLB Consulting, started driving to Oklahoma and made it to the South Dakota border before he received a text message that his wife and two kids, ages 11 and 4, were safe.
Kindred’s family was in an above-ground storm shelter at his daughter’s school not far from the tornado’s path.
“It basically wiped out everything across the street from where they were at,” he said.
After hearing from text messages that his family was safe, Kindred turned around and drove back to Williston. His company will fly him to Oklahoma today to be with his family and check on his house, which doesn’t appear to be damaged.
“It was very stressful being 1,300 miles away from my wife and kids,” said Kindred, who has been traveling to North Dakota for work for more than a year.
Several oil and gas companies that operate in the Bakken have strong ties to Oklahoma.
Employees of Continental Resources, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City, began collecting donations Tuesday and volunteering with relief efforts, said spokeswoman Kristin Miskovsky. The company will set up a fund for friends and family affected by the tornado and donate to the Red Cross, she said.
“Our employees just want to jump in and help immediately,” Miskovsky said.
ONEOK Partners and ConocoPhillips were among companies that announced major contributions. Spartan Engineering, a company founded by a North Dakota native, said it planned to donate through the Pipe Liners Club of Tulsa.
Individuals can donate $10 by texting “red cross” to 90999.