Watching death coming towards you – and filming it

This just boggles my mind.

Clem Schultz was sure the tornado weather forecasters were warning about was going to miss him, but he knew based on experience his Fairdale home would lose electricity.

So he went to an upstairs bedroom to get camping lanterns he and his wife, Geri, would surely be using early on the evening of April 9 last year.

He looked out a window and spotted a tornado to the west. He speculated it would stay south of his community, population around 150, about 19 miles northwest of DeKalb. He decided to record its passage on his cellphone camera.

But that black monster had other intentions, hopping the railroad tracks a block away.

There was no time for the 85-year-old to hurry back downstairs to the kitchen where Geri was. There was no point in getting in the cellar, which was basically a hole barely big enough to hold their furnace.

In an instant the tornado passed right through — literally — his house. Schultz rode the debris from the collapsing chimney down, losing his grip on the phone, getting entangled in a bedsheet, and becoming buried.

There’s more at the link.

Mr. Schulz’s wife died in the tornado.  Here’s what killed her.

If I’d been filming, I’d never have been able to forgive myself for not seeking shelter for myself and my wife instead . . .



  1. Sometimes there isn't an option for shelter.

    In my immediate area almost no one has a basement, the ground is simply to wet. Those who do created a hill in which to bury their basement. Half an hour away we have family with basements, but none of our neighbors do.

    A few years ago we were making a late lunch when tornado warnings screamed out on every single electronic device in the house. Tornadoes aren't common here. We flipped to the local news, and saw a large storm system, with a "swirly mass" at the bottom edge. Following the path of that swirly cloud area by eye I realized it was very likely to go right over us if it kept on its current path. There was no time to run for the houses of family, we'd have been running directly into the tornado, and its very unlikely we'd have been able to make it to their houses before the swirly cloud structure hit them. So we made preparations to huddle in the only room of the house without a window.

    We got lucky. The swirling clouds were on the southern end of the storm, and we're less than 1/2 mile from a good sized lake. When the northern storm edge touched the lake's air mass the storm changed direction, it had been heading in a north-east direction, the lake's effect caused it to push directly east till it was past the lake, where it pushed back to a north-east path.

    The tornado never touched down over the houses of our family. Infact, it didn't touch down till basically the same point where it stopped pushing north-east and went straight east instead. The tornado missed us by only a few miles.

  2. My daughter and her husband live in Joplin MO and their house is only a few blocks from where the destruction took place from the tornado five years ago. They had no basement to go to and so went to an interior room and prayed for the best. Tornadoes are nothing to fool around with.

  3. Unfortunately many people who live in danger zones for many years (like earthquake or tornado prone areas) tend to get complacent because they get used to seeing the warnings and they think they "know" how the phenomena will behave.

    As in this case it's a fatal assumption to make because the time he took to video the coming twister may have been enough time to have gotten himself ans his wife away from the area.

    If you don't have adequate shelter in place but do have sufficient warning, always get out ASAP.
    Better to chance the road than wait in place for the tornado to drop your house on top of you.

  4. I don't get it. He had over 2 minutes (from the video) to seek shelter for both him and his wife. Filming is great, but safety(or at least attempting to find some) should be first.

    might not have helped, but staring deth in the face when there are other alternatives is foolish.

  5. When I first moved to the midwest from the land of no tornadoes, I watched for the watches and warnings there on my first night in my new home. I was also told they sound like a train when approaching. We were under a watch that night, I was home alone with the dog. The power went out, the winds picked up, and I heard it through the high wind, the sound of the train. I put on my motorcycle helmet (head injuries are the worst), grabbed the dog, and a twin mattress and waited for it to kill me or pass, hunkered down in an ancient claw foot bathtub. I exited to quiet and no damage but a couple small limbs down in the front yard. I told my neighbor the next morning and she about lost it laughing – apparently I was hiding in the closet from the 10:10 freight train that passes behind our 20 acres.

  6. When anything major DOES actually happen it's sure to, more-often-than-not, catch you off-guard.

  7. Part of the problem is that in tornado country, those warnings and sirens go off for just about any thunderstorm. The weather people on the radio and TV *live* for this. Too many false warnings and you can't help but get complacent.

    Still, in the case of Mr. Schultz, I would have maybe snapped a couple of quick stills and then high-tailed it for that cellar – regardless of how small the space was. Indeed, if it were all that was available, I would have jumped in a septic tank and pulled the lid over me before I would have let that monster run over me on the second floor.

    By the way, I have witnessed four tornadoes in my life. One was over water and the others were from a distance. Still pretty impressive.

  8. GRY –
    That's what a lot of people tried to do the evening of the Moore OK and OKC storms. The trouble was it blocked I-40, the loop, and I35, catching people on the interstate as the storm crossed it. The TV people stopped telling people to go home after that and started encouraging shelter-in-place again. At least in very large metro areas, trying to drive away may not be the best of the bad options.


  9. 85 years old. Spry. Not much in the way of shelter at the end of the dash. What's the old line, you can run but you'll just die tired? I've been in places where some feel the need to get up and run but you're not going to outrun an explosion that close so there's little point in trying.

    Tornados are killers and if there is no adequate shelter than fate decides whether one lives or dies. You can accept it or you can try to run away. So he might have made it all the way to the kitchen. We'll, I'd have done that. Not ever going to leave the ones I love to die alone. Not if there is anything I can do about it.

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