Family Survives Thurman Tornado In Church Cellar
As the tornado hit Thurman, Iowa the Kestersons went to the only church in town for shelter.
Family in Thurman seeks shelter in church during severe weather Video by kmtv.comvideo
Thurman, IA- Anyone who has lived through a tornado knows how terrifying it can be.
Just ask Mary Kesterson.
Kesterson lives with her husband and four kids in a house in Thurman, Iowa. Their home doesn't have a storm shelter.
When they received the warnings the tornado was about to hit their town, they went to the Thurman United Methodist Church. Kesterson knew the doors to the church would be open.
Kesterson takes Action 3 News reporter Sarah Te Slaa inside the church where she and her family have worshiped for 20 years.
"We came in through the front doors and we immediately ran down the steps," says Kesterson.
She says the tornado sirens started sounding as her family and their dog made it to the church basement just moments before the tornado hit Thurman.
"We all hunkered down here, huddled together,and had our hands over our heads."
Her family of six rode out the storm in the cellar of the only church in town.
"Then there was just the loudest noise," says Kesterson.
As the tornado passed over, the cellar doors broke open.
"The doors shot open and everything started to move up and that's when we ran out of here and that's when we thought we would be sucked out of here," says Kesterson.
As debris swirled around them, the family ran out into the open area of the church basement.
"Then it reversed and all of the pressure came down and out and threw us back into the kitchen area."
She and her kids hid under heavy tables as her husband held the doors to the cellar shut.
"Everything kind of slowed down and the loud noises quit and the kids were crying," says Kesterson.
Her family was safe. They found their dog unharmed buried in the rubble of the cellar.
When they came out of the church, they saw what the tornado left behind in the town of 200 residents.
The EF-2 tornado took out some homes, tattered trees, and snapped power lines, but no one in town got hurt.
The Thurman United Methodist Church doesn't look badly damaged, but the wind bowed walls, broke windows, and shifted the bell tower.
The tornado twisted the church's foundation and now the doors that were always open are stuck shut.
"There could have been loss of life if this building had not been open and unlocked," says Jaye Johnson, the pastor of the church. "We are happy to live up to what we say we are which is 'open hearts, open minds, open doors."
Walking into the doors of the church as she's done for 20 years, Kesterson is thankful for the few minutes inside that kept her family alive.
"A terrible story, but it did have a good ending," says Kesterson.
The future of the 100 year old church remains uncertain as insurance adjusters and engineers inspect the place of worship.