(This story has been updated.)
Violent thunderstorms tore across the South over the weekend, killing 19 people. But in an incredible stroke of good fortune, a bathtub probably saved the life of a woman sheltering from a twister that carved a 13-mile path in east Texas, near the border with Louisiana.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Shreveport, La., filed a storm report Monday night that is a simply jaw-dropping. It describes an 800-yard-wide tornado packing winds of 130 mph that tore off the roof of a storage building on Saturday and tossed a party barge 200 yards into a grove of trees. But here is the unbelievable part:
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.
Jason Hansford, a senior meteorologist who conducted the storm survey, said he spoke to the woman after the incident.
“She heard the tornado warning come out and she took cover in the tub in her bathroom,” he said. “The only thing she remembers is that the tornado came in from the southwest across her home. At that point the whole backside of her house was sheared off. Her bath tub was ripped out of her bathroom and she ended up still in her tub in some woods near her home.”
Hansford said he didn’t know exactly how far the women, who he estimated was in her 60s, was thrown. Except for some cuts and bruises, “she was uninjured but emotionally shaken,” he said, adding that her house was totaled
This stands out as one of the most incredible tornado survival stories I’ve read. In the absence of an underground storm shelter, meteorologists frequently tell people to shelter in a bathtub during a tornado because it is heavy and typically well-secured.
“The bathroom has strong framing and the pipes in the walls could help hold them together, according to Tornadoproject.com,” wrote AccuWeather in 2011. “The bathtub and commode are directly anchored to the ground. They are often the only things left intact after a tornado passes.”
Several people survived the deadly tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011 by huddling in bathtubs, AccuWeather reported.
But it is amazing that this Texas tornado dislodged the bathtub with the woman in it, lofted into the air and then apparently gently laid it back on the ground — with the woman unharmed.
One other storm report from the weekend tornado outbreak caught my eye, and it did not end so well for the subject involved. Near Burkeville, Tex., a 25-yard wide tornado with 105 mph winds moved across a field “picking up a deer feed and watering device,” the storm survey said. “As the device flew through the air, it decapitated a deer, killing it.”