Submitted August 23, 2011

Tornado in Joplin

Hello my name is Darren Wheat. I live in Joplin, MO and was in the tornado that destroyed most of our town and I survived. This tornado was one of the worst ever recorded and many people here lost their lives. I'm writing you to promote any kind of awareness that I can as to a very simple step I took to stay alive that would never cross most peoples minds. It was a very sunny day on May 22nd and reports of a tornado watch started coming in about 4 hours prior to the storm. As the skies started turning darker I went out on my front porch at about 5:40 p.m. as the wind started picking up. A few minutes later I could hear a sound that is indescribable. At that time I looked in the sky and saw a huge black monster looking figure coming my way. I paused because I wasn't even sure what it was. When you think of a tornado you think of a typical funnel like you see on TV. This tornado was 1 mile wide and reached as high as the sky, so really I was just kind of in a state of shock seeing something so massive. In my side yard there is a man hole, I had a steel bar laying beside my house so as it got closer I popped the top off, lowered my girlfriend and another neighbor down and then jumped in myself. We were very safe and secure due to the fact were were approximately 7 feet underground at that time. Just seeing the size and power of this tornado I knew there was no way I wanted to be above ground. I would peek my head up whenever possible just to see it move slowly by and causing terrible destruction. I did not lose my house as so many others did, but the amount of flying debree was unreal. Every time I tell someone this story about jumping in a manhole they always say "wow, what a great idea" and "I would have never thought of that". I truely believe this action could be a life saver for so many. Think of how many manholes there are around each town, these are virtually the same thing people spend thousands of dollars on to have buried in their yards as storm shelters. Some people might argue that their are gasses that could harm you in some of these manholes, and that might be the case if you tried to live in one. A tornado passes fairly quick so in this case we were only in there for about a total of 5 minutes, definitely a life saver. Houses were ripped completly off of their foundations and from their crawl spaces, so for a tornado of this size the only true place to be safe was way underground. Anyway thanks for your time and I just feel this is something that I should tell others and make them aware of this simple thing I did to save lives. I know tornado season is about over for this year but for future awarenes if this could save someones life as it did ours it would be wonderful thing.

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