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The Day After
Looming twister awes reporter

By Don Haddix
For the Associated Press

Originally Published Wednesday, June 4, 1980

It was a big, menacing thing. It also was the scariest thing I've ever seen.

It roared through town and tore it apart. I saw it work its way right into town.

I'd come home from work about 8:30 and pulled open the drapes like I usually do. I saw a funnel cloud in the northwest. I thought I'd call the weather guy at the station (Hastings is 20 miles south of here) but then the electricity went out.

So I sat and watched this thing. It got darker and darker. I got my camera out and then the storm system moved to the north of the city.

I could see lightning -- the sky was quite a show.

The funnel was moving straight toward town. I'd never seen a tornado in my life but I was in the middle of one.

Then I looked to my right and saw another twister from the northeast.

The first one, coming from the north, looked like a very dirty, wide mass of spinning dirt heading right towards me. Looking at it from 11 stories in the air was really something.

There were power lines popping like fireworks in the distance.

About then I thought I should get out of there.

The elevator was out, of course, so I ran down 11 flights of stairs. There was a tremendous amount of noise. By then I'd forgotten I was a reporter and I was thinking about saving my own skin.

I got to the lobby and saw about 40 people standing there gawking at the outside. Apparently they didn't see it like I did.

I yelled at them that there were tornadoes in town and we all got down to the basement.

We huddled there for about 20 minutes. I called my station and they wanted me to beat it over to City Hall, which is a half a block away. I thought the guy was crazy.

But after a few minutes I went. I got out the door and a gust of wind lifted me right up in the air. If I hadn't held on to the door handle I would have flown to City Hall or beyond.

I ran the 50 yards or so to City Hall. It was so dark by this time, I couldn't see. There was a tremendous roar outside. It was absolutely overwhelming.

I found out later that a tornado touched down three blocks away from where I ran to City Hall.