A police officer whose squad car was swept up and tossed 120 feet by a tornado last Thursday told supervisors she tried to flee the car as the storm neared but its doors wouldn't open.
LaPorte County Police Detective Shayna Mireles said that just before a tornado packing winds of 110 mph struck north of LaPorte, she tried getting out of her car, but the doors would not open due to the outside air pressure.
At that moment, she saw the tornado, which lifted her car over a 4-foot high fence, causing it to land on its front end, then roll several times, coming to rest upside down 120 feet away.
Mireles suffered cuts and bruises, including a big cut on her forehead and a black eye.
She told the Post-Tribune on Friday from her room at LaPorte Hospital that she's doing fine, but didn't want to talk about her experience in detail until she left.
Just before her car became airborne, Mireles calmly called 911 to report turbulent weather.
"There are trees coming down everywhere here," she said in that call.
A few minutes later, after her violent brush with the tornado, her voice was more frantic.
"I'm trapped in my car. It's upside down," Mireles told the dispatcher.
A Valparaiso University meteorologist said Mireles is lucky to be alive because motorists whose cars are struck by tornadoes most often die.
"It's relatively common that people get killed in vehicles in tornadoes. It's not a good place to be," said Bart Wolf, chairman of the school's geography and meteorology department.
Mireles was headed home when the tornado roared along a county road north of U.S. 20, scooping up her squad car.
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said Mireles' police car was severely damaged.
"I don't think there's a piece of sheet metal that's straight on it," he said. "She's in pretty good humor, but she still has got a lot of pain."