By Scott Fitzgerald Staff Writer

Call it family --?and a large extended one at that, with members ranging from a newborn infant to grandparents in their 80s.

Vance Air Force Base airmen Brandon Cloud and James Briggs extended themselves to their families devastated by Hurricane Rita, which battered Texas coastal towns and caused major flooding in parts of Louisiana.

Base officials reported 37 people total from both families have sought temporary refuge in Enid until the word is official they can return to their homes.

"All hell broke loose," said Marlan Verdine, who along with his wife, Jan, received eyewitness reports from friends and neighbors about the storm ravaging Orange, Texas, their hometown located 20 minutes from Beaumont.

The Verdines were in Enid when Rita hit, having arrived here a week earlier to visit the newest member of their family, Austin Cloud, who was born to their daughter, Ashley, and Brandon Cloud, their son-in-law.

"We never went home," Verdine said, as Rita forced people to flee areas along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

Verdine has managed to talk with some of his neighbors about storm damage.

"Part of our home is destroyed. Part of the chimney. There's a tree limb across the truck. There's a tree limb across my shop. We were very fortunate. Our house didn't get flooded," Verdine said.

Authorities have reported it will be approximately four weeks before residents are allowed to return because of power shortages and lack of services, Verdine said.

The Verdine step-family, Myron and Carissa Waldrep, managed to get away from their DeQuincy home, located about 20 minutes north of Lake Charles, La.

Myron Waldrep said he and his wife managed to grab some clothes and travel back roads before they hit the main traffic arteries in Texas.

The traffic jams were horrific, he said, and the gas shortage compounded the problem immensely.

Briggs' cousin, John Washington, said he and other family members "weren't really scared. We were just moving on," as they grabbed what they could and departed their Beaumont/Port Arthur residences.

Another cousin, Carolyn Breaux, remembers seeing unique things on the road, like people moving livestock -- huge horse trailers traveling on shoulders of two-lane highways.

Breaux complimented officials with Enid's Salvation Army for their financial support and people at Vance, where they are staying.

"The airmen and women of the base have been wonderful," Breaux said.

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