Surviving An Ef-5 Tornado Above Ground

Thursday, May 8th 2014, 10:54 pm
By: News 9, David Payne

By David Payne, News 9 Weather

MOORE, Oklahoma - The best place to be during a tornado is in our safe spot. But what if we don't have a storm shelter? Chief Meteorologist David Payne has that potentially lifesaving information.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Norman just completed a study on the May 20 tornado. They looked at where people sought shelter that day. We've learned, with the right planning, we all can survive a tornado.

The Kriesel family never imagined the bathtub in the middle of their Moore home would save their lives.

"We told [the kids] there is a storm coming. We're going to pray. We are going to do what we need to do to stay together," said Nathan Kriesel.

Nathan, Amber and their three daughters went through their tornado drill.

"I had them put on tennis shoes, jeans, jackets and bicycle helmets," said Amber.

"We told them to get as low as they could go, keep their heads down. Don't look up. We actually were knelt in front of the tub on top of them and we just kind of locked arms around them," said Nathan.

Thousands of other Oklahomans also survived without a shelter. Dr. Harold Brooks with the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman just released results of a study on the survival rate from the Moore tornado.

"Where people were at the time tornado hit, what they were doing and what happened," said Brooks.

The study found that approximately 9,000 people, including the Kriesels, rode out the storm in homes without a shelter. Thirteen were killed inside homes. That's 0.14 percent.

"The big message we get out of May 20 is really, if you do the right thing your chance of survival is very, very high," said Brooks.

Doing the right thing starts with a plan. You need a helmet, goggles, gloves, closed-toe shoes, long-sleeve shirts and pants. Then, wrap up in a blanket. You need to get as low as you can, put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible and hunker down. That's exactly what the Kriesels did.

"We look at each other thinking, ‘Wow, this is all we have.' But we have every possible thing we need right here," said Nathan. 

One year later, the Kriesels have moved into a new home, but held onto one thing from their former home.

"That's the tub. The church wrote ‘Ark' on it when they helped us clean it up," said Amber.

"It was our refuge. For most people, it's ugly, but it's what saved us," said Nathan.

It was the Kriesels' secret weapon for surviving a tornado.

"We followed those directions, did the simple things we're supposed to do with what we had," said Amber.

"Get as much protection around you as you can get," said Nathan.

Brooks will talk about his concerns for Oklahoma tomorrow on News 9 This Morning.

Nathan and Amber did have some cuts and bruises from flying debris, but the children did not have a scratch. Brooks says sheltering in place is our best option. Most of all, never try to outrun a tornado in a car.