FORT SMITH (KFSM) — For Sandra Unangst, it was “about the closest I’ll ever want to be to a tornado.”
Dramatic video captures the moments when she and her family sheltered in their home as a tornado passed just yards from their home.
The EF-1 tornado was one of five that struck the River Valley on Saturday (May 18). Unangst’s home was in the path of the twister that moved from Arkoma across Interstate 540 to Massard Road, downing trees and power lines and damaging buildings.
Unangst used a map created by the 5NEWS weather team to show how her home lay directly in the tornado’s path.
Unangst told 5NEWS she wasn’t ready to go on camera yet, because she was still shaken from the event. But she described what happened that day.
She said she was standing on the back deck of her home on South 17th Street watching the storms roll in, when the tornado sirens went off.
Unangst was at the home with her husband, their four children (ages 10, 12, 14 and 18) and one child’s visiting friend, age 14. They also had their dog and two cats in the home.
She said they could see a funnel, and they got the children and the pets into the hall to take shelter, but Unangst went back to the door to watch the storm approach.
“I was the crazy storm nut, poking my head out to watch, until I saw the debris flying,” she said.
Unangst ran into her home as the storm hit next door and crouched beside her family, trying to soothe their fears.
“We’re OK, the tornado’s hitting,” she says in the video, telling the children to cover themselves with pillows as they crouch in the hall. “We’re safe, it’s going just to our south, guys.”
Unangst said she emerged to find all of the trees in her neighbor’s yard down, as well as one tree in her back yard that narrowly missed her shed. In a second video, she surveys the damage, noting that a large tree fell on her neighbor’s house and into his bathtub.
“Total devastation,” she notes in the video. “These trees went into his house, through his bathtub. Had he been in his bathtub, he would not have lived.”
“I was very emotional seeing the damage,” Unangst told 5NEWS. “And just talking about it, I’m crying again.”
Unangst said the damage went on for several blocks, but that her family and the neighbors were safe.
“We were blessed,” she said.