‘The floor disappeared under my feet’: Trapped tornado survivors waited hours for rescue, hoping ceiling wouldn’t collapse
By Jason Hanna and Caroll Alvarado, CNN
Randall McCloud saw trees fall and the porch get pulled apart as he watched from the entrance of his mother’s central Alabama house Thursday — and it was about to get much worse.
He dashed inside the kitchen and tried to reach his mother and his cousin in a hallway, but suddenly had nothing more to run on.
“The floor disappeared under my feet, and I went straight to the ground” beneath it, McCloud told CNN’s Amara Walker on Saturday, recalling the moment a tornado ripped his mother’s home apart.
The home in Autauga County’s Marbury community, some 25 miles northwest of Montgomery, had just been clobbered by one of the twisters that raked the South on Thursday. Seven people were killed in that county alone and nine overall in that day’s storms, including two in Georgia.
McCloud was scraped but alive.
“Had to crawl back up into the end that was still standing … crawl back up into in the hallway,” he said.
He found his mother and cousin, both also OK. The hallway and a small part of the kitchen were intact, but they were otherwise trapped by debris with no immediate way out.
Worried about the ceiling collapsing, McCloud got his mother into a walker with a seat, and “pushed her up against the refrigerator,” he said.
“I figured if the roof collapsed, the refrigerator might take some of the force of the roof coming down some,” he said. “So we had a small area there in the kitchen (where) we were all kind of huddled together.”
“It was just (us) sitting there thinking any moment the rest of the roof and stuff was going to cave in on us.”
There was no quick way to get to them — the area was devastated.
At least 20 homes in Autauga County were either damaged or destroyed, Gary Weaver, the deputy director of the county’s emergency management agency, said. Wind intensity that caused the damage was rated EF-3, meaning gusts of at least 136 mph — the National Weather Service said.
Autuaga County’s Marbury area is about 45 miles northeast of Selma, an Alabama city, known for its role in the civil rights movement, that was devastated by an EF-2 tornado Thursday.
The same storm damaged both areas, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the path of damage was continuous, the National Weather Service said Friday.
In Autauga County, emergency workers and others cleared roads to get to the McCloud house. As people cut fallen trees, a neighbor used a skid steer loading vehicle to remove the pieces, McCloud said.
About three hours after the tornado hit, workers accessed the house and the family inside. McCloud’s mother was taken out on a gurney. “Once we got her out, we felt a lot better,” he said.
McCloud’s own home also was destroyed, as was another relative’s house, he said.
He and his mother are staying with his brother “until we can figure out a more permanent solution,” McCloud’s daughter Tiffany McCloud told CNN.
“It’s been something I really don’t want to experience again,” Randall McCloud said. “It was an ordeal.”
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CNN’s Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.