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Poulsbo natives in Missouri picking up the pieces after devastating tornado

POULSBO — Two Poulsbo natives and their children survived the Joplin, Mo. tornado that ripped through that city Sunday.

The tornado is blamed for as many as 125 deaths.

Heather and Paul Cheatham, their children and his mother hunkered down with neighbors in the Cheathams’ storm basement as the tornado destroyed the neighborhood. The National Weather Service determined that the tornado that struck Sunday was an EF5, producing winds greater than 200 mph.

The neighborhood had had 17 minutes of warning.

After the tornado passed, Heather texted her mom, Sharon Lucas, and let her know that a tornado had struck but that they were safe.

Paul graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1988. Heather went to local schools and graduated from high school in Japan. They moved to Joplin three years ago, Lucas said. Paul works for Eagle-Picher, a manufacturing, resource extraction and technology company. Heather works for the day care center at St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Their daughters, Ella and Krista, are 8 and 5, respectively. Paul’s mother, Arnetta Cheatham, of Poulsbo, was visiting them when the tornado struck. The family is now staying with relatives in Tulsa, Okla.

“They are surviving. They are quite shaken,” Lucas said Tuesday.

And so is Lucas.

“I’m starting to come out of it. They’re OK. It’s only things,” she said of their loss.

The Cheathams have been featured in several news reports of the tornado. The Missouri National Guard’s 1107th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group is one of about 220 Guard troops in the Joplin area helping tornado victims, according to The Joplin Globe.

Lucas said her daughter and son-in-law were expected to visit their house Wednesday and see if anything can be retrieved. Efforts have been hampered by continued storms.

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