The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a tornado as a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground.
The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world and NOAA states that in an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide.
“Tornado Alley” in the U.S. is a hot spot for tornadoes, and as Texas is located at its southerly tip, it is a high-risk state for tornadoes. And Charlesetta Williams was exactly there when a tornado found her– in her bathtub!
Back in January 2017, she was watching TV with her son Rickey when they saw an urgent warning of a possible tornado coming towards their house.
For shelter, Rickey urged his mother to get in the bathtub and hide under a blanket, and he joined her.
Luckily, their choice proved to be wise. In a moment, they found themselves in the yard. The tornado picked up the bathtub they were hiding in, spun it in the air, and put them back down in the woods.
In a storm report, the National Weather Service wrote:
“The tornado continued in a northeast direction, crossing CR 3300 at which point it removed the roof of a home. A woman inside took shelter in a bathtub and the tornado lifted the tub out of the home and deposited it in the woods with the woman still in the tub but the woman was not injured.”
Rickey Williams said he fell out of the tub and landed safely on the ground about 20 feet from his mother, who rode the flying tub all the way down. He remembered:
‘It felt like somebody had their hands on us and just placed us on the ground.’
The 75-year old Charlesetta said:
“We were laying in the bathtub in the bathroom, and we heard a boom. Then when we woke up, we were in the yard.”
She remembered the terrifying sound the tornado made: “Woo, woo, woo, woo.”
Fortunately, Charlesetta and her son got away with minor scratches and bruises, but the whole situation was, of course, terrifying.
“I wasn’t looking. I was under that quilt.”
She said the family plans to rebuild, but she hopes her wild ride will be the last of its kind. She stated she was not ready to take on another tornado any time soon, as she wouldn’t live through it:
“I’m a tell you I don’t wanna ride now through another one.”
“I’d have a heart attack.”
When Gray Volunteer Fire Department Captain, Nancy Rogers, arrived at their home, the severity of the damage surprised her, so she considered their survival a miracle.
She told the Williams:
“You had the hand of God over the top of you. He’s protecting you, because roofs were gone and people were still kneeling in hallways.”
The EF2 tornado that hit their home managed to take out about 15 homes, but luckily, it did not cause injuries. According to the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, the tornado was considered “significant”, with winds reaching 111 to 135 mph.
Incredible story, isn’t it?
Texas Storm Chasers provide the following safety tips to stay safe during a tornado:
- Move to the lowest floor.
- Shelter in a small room with no windows, and make sure you have as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.
- Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands.
- Cover yourself with protection or get under a sturdy object, like a blanker or a mattress.
- For personal protection, it is recommended to wear pants, long-sleeve shirts, sturdy shoes, and a helmet.