Woman recalls being in labor in hospital basement
By Harold Reutter
For the Monte Malone and John Street families, surviving the June 3, 1980, tornadoes was a family affair.
Tami Malone recalls the events of June 3 clearly.
Her husband, Monte, was at work at New Holland and Mrs. Malone, whose due date was exactly one week away, decided to go out and mow the lawn.
''When I came back in my water had broken,'' Mrs. Malone said.
Mrs. Malone drove herself to the old Lutheran Memorial Hosptial on Faidley Street, arriving at 6 p.m. Her husband got there 45 minutes later.
Because of the storm that hit a few hours later, Mrs. Malone was placed in the basement for safety. She was not alone.
''We were in the fallout shelter, where all the people were,'' she said. ''It was kind of embarassing'' being in labor with a roomful of people who were curious about what was going on.
Mrs. Malone said she did not have much time to think about the tornado, even though windows were being blown out of the basement windows in the hospital.
Mrs. Malone remembers being really scared only once. She said she was lying on a cart near a bathroom.
When the windows were breaking out near the height of the storm, one of the nurses tried to go into the bathroom to see what was happening only to be ''shoved back against the wall'' by the force of the storm.
Mrs. Malone said she got scared and the heart monitor attached to her baby showed the child's heart briefly stop before restarting.
The storm finally died near midnight and Mrs. Malone said she was moved upstairs, where she delivered daughter, Amber, at 1:20 a.m. on June 4.
''Dr. (John) Reilly said I should call her Wendy,'' said Mrs. Malone, who noted she already had selected the name Amber if the child was a girl.
Later that day, Mrs. Malone said she learned her house had been destroyed. That was a crushing blow, but she noted it was a good thing she was at the hospital, instead of at home.
''I probably would have been killed,'' said Mrs. Malone, who said she was told the house at 919 S. Vine ''just exploded and the basement filled with water.''
Mrs. Malone said the family stayed with her in-laws for about a week, before moving into an apartment building managed by her uncle.
The family eventually built a new house.
''Monte wanted to rebuild,'' said Mrs. Malone, who noted she was dead set against the idea of building another house on the same site.
''We'd already put our home up for sale,'' Mrs. Malone said. ''The tornado just made it (building a new home at another location) a little faster.''
At the Street household at 720 W. Stolley Park Road, four people and the family dog rode out the storm in a walk-in closet in the basement.
Make that 4 people.
On June 6, three days after the tornadoes hit Grand Island, Colleen Street gave birth to a daughter, Andrea.
''I was 10 days past due on June 3,'' Colleen Street said. Needless to say, their daughter's impending birth and the tornadoes made for a memorable evening.
Mrs. Street recalls ''being really nervous and being afraid about not being able to get out of the yard and to the hospital, because we had heard about the power lines and the trees that were down.''
Mrs. Street's mother, Eleanora Johnson, was staying with the family in anticipation of her new grandchild.
With the birth of their daughter so near, the Streets earlier in the evening had driven to St. Francis Medical Center, just so they would know the location of the emergency room and how to get there.
Shortly after they got back home, John Street's brother, Tom, called from his house in north central Grand Island near Skagway. The electricity was out at his home and the sky looked threatening.
John got his brother and brought him to the house, located just west of Barr Junior High School, on Stolley Park Road.
That's how the four adults all happened to be in the house at the same time.
They were in the basement listening to the radio, which warned people in the south part of Grand Island to take cover. Mrs. Street said she recalled wondering if that meant them. It did not take long to find out.
''The power went out, we heard the roar, the dog went into the closet and we followed the dog,'' Mrs. Street said.
Everybody sat on the closet floor, talking for the next couple of hours.
The next two days, the fourth and fifth, were a blur. Mrs. Street recalled telephoning friends to see how they were, hearing a phone ring and often getting no answer because the home had been destroyed.
''I felt really helpless, not being able to do a whole lot,'' Mrs. Street said. ''There was a whole lot of debris in our yard.''
Shortly after midnight on June 6, Mrs. Street went into labor. The Streets had to go through a checkpoint established by the National Guard near the Platt-Duetsche to get to the hospital.
The Streets got through ''very quickly'' once the Guardsmen learned what was going on. ''They said carry on,'' Mrs. Street said.
Once they got to the hospital, Mrs. Street's labor stopped. Normally, the Streets would have gone back home but they told hospital officials ''we couldn't go home, there's a curfew until 7 a.m.''
Mrs. Street said the hospital had enough auxiliary power to keep on the lights, but not enough for air conditioning in the delivery room. So she sucked on ice chips and the hospital staff used a fan to help keep her cool during delivery. Daughter Andrea arrived at 5:30 in the afternoon.
''The doctor kept me in the hospital an extra day maybe an extra two days because there was no electricity at home,'' Mrs. Street said. Her husband finally rounded up a utility crew, explained the situation and they helped restore electricity to the house.
Asked if she always remembers June 3, 1980, at this time of year, Mrs. Street said, ''Yes, I sure do. I hope it (a torando) doesn't happen again. I hope that if it does, we are as well prepared for the next tornado as we were the last time.''