Tornado Survivor Stories
This page offers stories submitted by tornado survivors. These accounts have not been verified. If you survived a tornado or know someone who did, share your story and help save lives. Please Contact Us. PLEASE note that we have permission to print your story online and let us know the town and state and the month and year of the event.
Peggy, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1969
Happened in the days before warning sirens. Someone told me this storm was the one that got our county moving toward using civil defense sirens for approaching inclement weather. My mom, sister and I just got home from a company picnic. I was riding in the back of my sister’s ’68 Mustang hatchback. I looked at the sky the whole time coming home. I didn’t notice anything but my sister remembers the sky looking weird. It had drizzled off and on all day at the picnic, so we really didn’t get to enjoy burgers and hot dogs on the grill. When we arrived at home, Mom started cooking supper. I sat in my usual spot, opposite the kitchen window. It was a few minutes before 7 pm. It started to rain hard. First it came down vertically, then slanted, then horizontal. The entire view out the window was a light gray, with black flecks darting by. I don’t remember any sound at all. I must have blocked it out! My sister yelled “get under the table”!, so she and my mom & our dog did just that. My brother was in the front room and he came in the kitchen yelling “We had a *(&$! tornado”! His arm was cut from trying to close a window when the glass broke inward. It all happened so fast!
I stood up and looked out the back door. I saw bricks falling off of the building in back of us. Its’ roof was completely gone. We heard crying from the direction of our next door neighbors’ house. They had 8 children at the time, and all of them were walking over tree branches, wires, and a downed fence, to come to our house. The second floor of their house had exploded from the pressure and some of their furniture was in our back yard. Our house had fared a little better; all we had were broken windows and a second story porch blown away. That meant our neighbors who lived upstairs were trapped in their apartment. (Some firemen came & rescued them). Across the street from us was an 1880’s school that had been turned into rental property. It had 3 storys and a tower that had a slate staircase inside it. The tower was gone; it had collapsed inside of itself. The family with the 8 children all gathered inside our tiny kitchen. Some sat under our sink and cried and prayed. It was unreal. Nothing made any sense! My dad worked out of state and I don’t remember how he found out, but someone must have called him to come home. When he got to our neighborhood, he had to show his driver’s license to the police as proof of residence, but he had to park his car blocks away and walk to our house. We could phone out, but no one could phone us. We had a transistor radio so we tried to get some news. There was nothing for a while. The Cincy Reds were playing at home and the announcers were giving the play-by-play as if nothing else was going on! My sister got in touch with a friend who lived on the west side of town. It was decided that we girls would go to the friend’s house for the night and my dad and brother and our dog would board up the windows and stay in our house, with a shotgun (but they had no ammo)!
The friend had to park on the outskirts but she saw some neighborhood boys and asked them to get us and bring us to her car. I couldn’t sleep at all that night. The next morning my sister’s friend & her family gave us some clean clothes and took us out to breakfast. It was a Sunday. They skipped church to take care of us, saying that we were more important right now (that stuck with me all these years). The headlines in the paper were all about the Manson murders. The tornado was written up, too, but not as big of a story. It felt like the world was coming to an end! We went back to our house a little later. I was on our back porch when I saw policemen bringing out 3 body bags from the old school. I lost it!!! A mother and her 2 young sons were crushed when the tower fell on them. Later in the day I was by our front yard looking at glass embedded in a phone pole. A couple approached me and asked about what happened and they said they were looking for the very same woman who had lost her life along with her sons. I froze. I didn’t know what to tell them! I ran to get my neighbor (the one with the 8 kids) and she told them what happened. They came into our house and used our phone, crying and crying. To sum up, for years I cringed when the sky would darken and the wind picked up. There’s more to tell, but these are the highlights (or the lowlights). For those who have been through it, it’s something you never forget.
Tatiana, Utah, 2016
This event was in 2016. I live in Utah and I was in the kitchen where we had a glass door to go to the backyard. I was looking outside through the closed door because I saw leaves that were in my backyard and my neighbors backyard and I was like "Whoa, the leaves are floating! It's like there's aliens are getting the leaves!" Then my mom said to move from the window and to grab my little sister, who was 2 years old and so I moved her. I asked my mom "why?" And she said "because it's a tornado." I was scared, our power went off, we couldn't find our candles but then we found it so I was happy. I was so happy and grateful that I was still alive and safe. Some of my friends almost died because large trees fell. It was an unforgettable event.
Shan, McAllen, TX, 2010
We were out of town when a hailstorm hit McAllen, Texas, in 2010 or 2011. The storm ripped through north McAllen and windows on the north sides of homes were shattered. Some think it might have been a small tornado. The flooding part though was caused by the buildup of hailstones over the street drains—blocking the escape of water from heavy rains. Water rose, and homes that you never would have expected to flood did. Ever since then we have carried flood insurance.
Amanda, Omaha, NE, May 2008,
When you live in Tornado alley it is drilled into your head what to look, feel, hear, and even smell for regarding a tornado. It was May 2008, around 1 or 2 am. I was living in a mobile home park in Omaha right up the street from Zorinsky Lake ( always had a killer view!). My friends and I were sitting on her porch talking and having a wonderful time. I kept looking toward Zorinsky Lake. I knew there was a storm coming; you could just feel it and smell the rain. It had been so humid that day and as the storm grew closer it had dropped temperature fast. I look out and all I see is lightening. I didn’t hear thunder at all. I say to my friends, “I see lightning, but there is no thunder, no rain, no nothing… usually you hear thunder”. Next thing I knew the breeze suddenly stopped and there was the silence. No crickets, no frogs, no locusts calling out for mates. Nothing. I call to my friends and we get inside the trailer. As soon as we shut the door, we hear what sounded like a freight train. The entire home shook and we ducked and huddled together. The door flew open and I look outside while we are interlocking arms to make sure we try to stay together. All I see is rain and what appeared to be smoke swirling around. My friend’s dad ran out from the bedroom, and slammed the door and asked if we were alright. There were no sirens, no warnings, nothing. The mobile home stopped shaking… It was still so calm and then the sirens started to go off. It was so faint to the point I thought I had lost my hearing. We turn on the TV to Channel 7 and we see Bill Randby, Chief Meteorologist, who said that there was a confirmed tornado within city limits. It had touched down in Omaha, but the sirens were late and that it has moved out of the park. We go outside and looked on our little community. There were no deaths, few were injured, but for being mobile homes, they were still holding up strong. Turned out the tornado did not touch down fully in the park, but still threw a carport into a neighboring car and tipped a tree to the point you couldn’t go up the road in any type of vehicle. I remember taking in a deep breath and hugging my friend and running over to my mom’s house and making sure she was alright. Till this day, I still remember that day and it still plays in my head. I now have two little girls to whom I am passing all the “farmer tricks” to and teaching them to keep an eye in the sky and a foot in the tornado shelter in spring.
Susan, Red Springs, NC, 1984
The day had been beautiful, we were going to my husband's mother's house for a cookout. We had the boys (aged 11 and 7 at the time) headed to the truck. My husband called for our dog a husky/chow mix to get on the back of the truck, but he wouldn’t come out of the house. My husband started to fuss with him, but you could tell Hobo was upset. The dog just would not leave the house. I told my husband something was wrong and all of a sudden you could feel the air change. I called for the boys to get back in the house. We got in the center part of the house when all the doors blew open. It was probably the only thing besides the dog that saved us. The tornado cut a path through the woods directed behind the house, maybe 10 feet, and continued until the whole town seemed to have been torn down. In less than 45 minutes, the National Guard was there and had declared martial law. The state patrol came to get my husband to help clear some of the roads. With just me and the children and Hobo, I spent the longest night of my life. You could tell from the sirens and helicopters that it was really bad! I remember looking out after it got dark and the pine trees glowed from the sap where the tops had been torn out. It was a devastatingly unforgettable event!
William, Smithville, MS, 2011
On April 27 2011, a tornado outbreak struck Smithville, Mississippi. After hearing the alert, I had walked outside. It was partly cloudy and warm but it turned cool so quickly that I thought it was over and I walked back inside my house. I lived in a apartment in a house with a double wall, a sound proof wall that separated my apartment from my neighbors. I was watching the news. WTVA Chief Meteorologist Matt Laubhan said the storm was coming to Smithville and I just stood there watching, waiting, looking at the TV and thinking this isn't gonna happen. About 30 seconds later, the power went out and the entire house shook for a minute and then stopped and I thought it was over so I was about to get up from my floor when the shaking began again and wouldn't stop this time. I felt the pressure drop and as the shaking got louder, I got worried. Then it felt like the house exploded. I woke up one hour and a half later in a field a 1/4 mile away from the house with cuts to my body and a deep cut to my head and covered in blood dirt and grass. I was taken to Tupelo, Mississippi, where I spent 2 weeks in recovery.