Port Orchard family finally begins to recover months after rare tornado

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- A family in Port Orchard finally began to recover from a tornado that could have killed them. The rare storm ripped apart their home and neighborhood in December 2018. Nine months after the storm, the family was able to settle into their new lives in Belfair.

Tucked behind trees and surrounded by the sounds of nature was the new home of Chris Raymond and his family. They moved in June.

“It’s very calming and relaxing,” said Raymond. “Absolutely peaceful. It’s quiet, you can hear just the birds in the background, you can see the horse and the deer.”

It was the first time in months Raymond said he and his family felt like they were home.

“When we finally go out here, just the smile on our face was, I think, just answer enough. We had a place to come back to that we could call home,” said Raymond.

He said his family saved every penny they had to afford their humble Belfair home after a tornado ripped apart their old one in Port Orchard.

“It was a very difficult time. And we were just spending every day figuring out what we were going to do and how we were going to move forward,” said Raymond. “The house is still there and it’s still almost flat as a pancake.”

Raymond said he visits the old home every couple of weeks. He explained the home was scheduled on the city’s demolition list. He said crews would remove asbestos from the site before moving forward.

Raymond flipped through pictures on his phone as he remembered the moments before the tornado hit. He said it was a calm morning in bed with his wife as they watched television.

“All of a sudden, the lights flickered, power went out. Got up out of bed, went looking into the dining room to see what was going on and literally saw the tornado going through my backyard behind my shop,” said Raymond.

He recalled ripping off the bedroom doors from its hinges so he and his wife could escape before the house collapsed on them.

“I sat there for a minute and I fell down to my knees and I just kind of cried. Thank God me and my wife were still alive. Because had we still been in there, had I not gotten up and known what was going on, we may not be here today,” said Raymond.

Also destroyed in the storm was Raymond’s auto repair shop. The business owner had a shop in the back of his house. Raymond said he sold what he could that had the least amount of damage. He kept what he thought he could fix over time, including a few motorcycles and cars.

Just a couple weeks after the storm, Raymond said an auto shop offered him a job to help him and his family get back on their feet. Though he was no longer in business for himself, Raymond said he loved his job and was grateful for the opportunity.

“I’m not the kind of guy that likes to sit around and do nothing. So, not being able to care for my family was like a really huge thing. And they gave me the ability to do that again. And with that I was able to save money again and find things that we needed,” said Raymond.

Despite losing almost everything in the storm, Raymond said his family learned they had all they needed.

“Sometimes the most difficult times in your life can be the most enlightening times in your life. That’s when you can grow the most as a person,” said Raymond. "I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life that would probably drive most people crazy. And yet, I have not only persevered through it, but through it I’ve grown and I’ve learned. I became more closer to the man I want to be than the man I was.”

While they won’t forget surviving something that could have killed them, Raymond said they looked forward to the calm after the storm.

“No matter how bad things get, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you might not be able to see it. Sometimes it may feel like the entire world is crashing down on you. Just around the next corner there’s a new day. And with that new day there’s a new opportunity,” said Raymond.