Nightly News   |  November 18, 2013

Midwestern tornadoes spawn stirring survival tales

Residents tell their stories of how they survived the deadly Midwestern tornadoes. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. as we watched it play out almost in slow motion from west to east across the midwest on a sunday afternoon in november, it was hard to believe really a wild outbreak of tornadoes. what the weather forecasting business calls a second season outbreak in a place where they assumed the danger had passed for this year. so far dozens of tornadoes have been confirmed yesterday along with eight deaths. most of them in illinois after rough weather that stretched across 12 states in all and all in the space of one strangely violent day. we begin our coverage tonight with nbc's kevin tibbles in illinois .

>> reporter: tonight here in pecon in washington and dozens of other midwest communities it's shocking what the massive storm has done. it's only now beginning to set in.

>> reporter: large areas of washington illinois look like a moon scape today as stunned residents picked through the wreckage whaf used to be their homes.

>> can you see the blanket in the tree. our house was right in front of that.

>> reporter: andrea bowers huddleed in the basement, like so many others. she held on to her 3-month-old daughter with all her might.

>> the windows blew out, and we just huddled together and laid on top of our daughter and everything just started falling in.

>> reporter: by the time this massive storm roared through illinois , six people were dead. among the victims, aim where i tippin's grandmother and her great uncle joseph of new mindon.

>> she kept saying i want out of here, i want out of her.

>> reporter: their farmhouse could not with stand the strength of the storm. after surveying the damage up close, i got to see it from above.

>> i've never seen the aftermath from the air. it's almost like a bulldozer has run from one end of town right through the other and then as far as the eye can see in the other. then there are the power towers , which are just on the ground and twisted up like pretzels. these things are made out of steel.

>> reporter: the storm moved so quickly residents only had minutes after the sirens went off, including the anchors at this peoria tv station .

>> i am hearing things right now, chuck. i think we may need to take shelter ourselves.

>> yes, we do.

>> we need to go off the air. we will be back when we can.

>> reporter: as the jibt twisters approached, worried prayers are heard in this cell phone video.

>> thy will be done.

>> it's coming fast.

>> reporter: for those on the road, a desperate rush to safety.

>> go, go, go, go!

>> reporter: in neighboring indiana phyllis rose says she is still in shock.

>> this is where the home was standing. the roof was completely taken out, and there is nothing, as you can see, left.

>> nothing except for this christmas ornament with her late husband's photo. after 42 years together he passed away last year.

>> i had a great loss when i lost him, and now this is another loss, but i will make it with god's help.

>> reporter: they may have lost all their worldly possessions, but they survived.

>> look at that. it's a miracle that anybody would walk out of that alive.

>> reporter: schools and churches have now hastily been turned into emergency shelters for those that have had everything stolen from them by this storm. brian .

>> kevin tibbles from illinois tonight. what an unbelievable scene. kevin , thanks.

>>> this bears repeating. a string of tornadoes 11 days before thanksgiving. a very rare occurrence in the world of weather. mike seidel was out in it last night, and he can undercore the fact from kokomo, indiana. good evening.

>> reporter: hey, brian , good evening. two tornadoes rolled through the kokomo landscape late in the afternoon. winds as high as 135 miles per hour. it's moving at 60 miles an hour. that's interstate b, and this house is blown to smitherines. the house behind me, and part of it over here on the railroad tracks , of all places. this is very unusual to see twisters this late in the season. we typically see them in the deep south in november, but yesterday was not your typical november day. you went outside in sunrise in the midwest . it was in the 60s. 25 degrees above average. then throw in that roaring jet stream aloft, 150 mile winds five miles up, and the winds were blowing 60, 70 merpz but from a different direction. you get the twisting and turning, and you get the unusual ef-4s. in fact, illinois had two of those. never seen those on record since 1950 . brian , back to you.

>> mike seidel amid the wreckage