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Family ties itself to trees to survive tornado

A rope and a cluster of trees — that's what an Alabama family says saved them from a huge tornado. Meanwhile, another woman claims she was sucked up by the same twister — twice.
/ Source: NBC News

A rope and a cluster of trees — that's what an Alabama family says saved them from the tornadoes that struck the state.

Larry White just returned to Louisville from helping his sister and her family recover from the Alabama tornadoes that blew their home away.

When White watched the path of the now famous black twisting cloud on TV, he could see it heading straight toward Wellington, Ala., the home of his sister, Tammy Hardy.

"As it came on through, you could see the magnitude, and how wide it was. Just a big cloud on the ground,” White told NBC station WLKY . “And I told my wife, I said, ‘It's headed right to my sister's place.’”

By the time he called, Hardy, her husband, two sons, their wives and her six grandchildren had already lost power to their homes and headed for cover.

"I didn't know if we was going to live through it. I thought this might be when I die,” Hardy said.

After their power went out, Hardy said, it was only minutes before the tornado bore down on their small farm. Hardy said as she heard their trailers ripping apart, they had no time to think. Her son quickly came up with a plan.

“We put the kids in the middle of the four little trees and the rest of us gathered in around them in a huddle,” Hardy said.

Hardy said they tied the two youngest children together with a rope in the middle of the trees and then each one of the adults held onto the rope as they surrounded the children inside.

Hardy said when the wind came, the youngest child began screaming for her father to hold on to her.

"My nephew said it was like sticking your head out the window and letting the air hit you really hard with the wind, but imagine a lot of dirt hitting you,” White said.

The family said they went through two hits of high winds and when it was over they were OK, but their farm, cows and chickens were gone.

"When she started to explain to me what they went through, she asked me, 'Are you still on the phone?' I couldn't respond, because I was so choked up, I told her just let me cry,” White said.

White and Hardy said they are very aware how lucky her family was to survive when many did not.

"Instead of crying about the aftermath, we was singing and dancing and laughing. We were just glad to be alive,” Hardy said.

Hardy’s family is living in a hotel and is on the list for assistance from FEMA.

White said he and his family are planning another trip down south to help his sister and family recover.

Meanwhile, a woman in Phil Campbell, Ala., claims she survived being pulled into the same powerful EF5 tornado — twice.

that she was crouching in her bathtub when the twister sucked up her home.

She said after falling 30-40 feet to the ground she began to crawl toward her underground storm shelter.

That's when she claimed the tornado sucked her up a second time.

Norman remembers the sound of crunching metal and seeing trees, cattle and other debris swirling around her.

The storm dropped her again, and she was hospitalized for five days with damage to her lungs along with several cuts and bruises.

The tornado that Norman came in contact with was the strongest storm on April 27.

The EF5 stayed on the ground for 132 miles and killed 26 people in Phil Campbell.

Norman said a local church has put her family up in a hotel.

So far, there has been no sign of their of mobile home.