Attacks of Nature: Tornado Survivors

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email
Being at the mercy of mother nature can be one of the most intense experiences of a lifetime.  All this week, during severe weather and tornado awareness week, we

Tornado damage in the Blackman community in Murfreesboro on April 10, 2009. (Photo Courtesy: Former WVLT-TV producer Ryan Locker)

Being at the mercy of mother nature can be one of the most intense experiences of a lifetime.

All this week, during severe weather and tornado awareness week, we're bringing you stories of survival.

As we continue uour series, 'Attacks of Nature,' Liz Hayes reveals the harrowing perspective of surviving a twister.

"You don't fight with her, that's for sure....because she's going to win," said Nancy MacDonald, a survivor.

June 7th, 2007, was like any other summer day in northeastern Wisconsin.

"The day was beautiful. I mowed lawn all day, which is my passion....lawn mowing," she said.

But in the late afternoon the sky turned black, clouds rolled in, and the rain poured down on the Township of Wolf River.

"It got like midnight outside so we went downstairs and it's a good thing. Before we got down there the window on the house exploded, the big elm tree came down," said MacDonald.

In an instant, an F4 tornado turned MacDonald's property into a wasteland.

The ceilings were down, furniture tossed, garage destroyed and massive trees turned to mere toothpicks.

"In our house there were pieces of glass six inches long sticking in my walls by the refrigerator from my window exploding. So ya don't wanna be up there, you'd a been dead. It just came here, jumped the road, went on and got Bear Paw down there."

Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort, a summer destination nestled into the northwoods of White Lake, was wiped away by the same twister.

"It looked like a bomb went off here. There was trees twisted all over the place, laying down, buildings....just parts of buildings everywhere and kayaks in trees," said Scott Berry, co-owner of the resort.

Berry, a volunteer firefighter, was one of the first to lay eyes on the amazing destruction.

"The main concern was checking for folks first. But yeah, I was definitely blown away," Berry said.

The mile wide tornado left 36 miles of unbelievable destruction. Luckily most people walked away with cuts and bruises, nobody was killed.

"Definitely was from the grace of God. Somebody was looking out for us, that nobody got killed here," he said.

Employee Stephanie Kerscher was in her cabin as the twister approached. She reached to shut the window, but the tornado's sheer force was much too strong.

"It sucked me out the window. I started screaming for like 15 minutes. I was screaming ,' help.' I didn't know if anyone was gonna come get me," she said.

All together, six buildings were destroyed and thousands of trees were shredded.

Today MacDonald's house is renovated, though her garage was never re-built. And the land that was home to a forest of trees, is empty.

Bear Paw is looking brand new, slated to re-open for the season on April 24th.

"It's an unbelievable power, people don't need to fool around. If they tell you to go in the basement, go some place because you're not gonna survive it," said MacDonald.

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