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Woman who survived Joplin tornado in her pickup tells her story

Michelle Smith and her husband were trying to get home to their sons from Home Depot when they were caught in the tornado's path.

June 03, 2011|by Linda Russell | KY3 Reporter

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- A woman caught in the Joplin tornado's path tells her story of survival.  Michelle Smith was seriously hurt and still hospitalized Friday night.

Smith was brought to St. John's in Springfield from Freeman Hospital in Joplin just hours after the tornado hit.  She and her husband rode out the EF5 tornado in their Ford F150 pickup.

Michelle Smith and her husband Alan were in the parking lot of Joplin's Home Depot when they got the call from their sons at home.  "He called me screaming, the tornado was on top of them, the windows were busting and stuff," Michelle says.

They got in their pickup and left Home Depot.  "I just needed to make sure my kids were ok," says Michelle.

Michelle and Alan tried to get to their boys.  "We started going down 20th street towards my house, and a tornado just jumped out in front of us," Michelle says.

Michelle turned onto another street, but there was no escape.  "I couldn't go anywhere.  There was so much debris in the road and there was an 18 foot red enclosed trailer there attached to a big truck, so I figured if I got next to it, as close as possible, I at least could shield myself from some of the debris and whatever," Michelle says.

The tornado sent debris flying at more than 200 miles an hour.  "Everything just started whipping and next thing I know, my windshield was caving in on me, and the corner of the truck was caving in on me, and I blacked out," Michelle says.

By the time it was over, the truck and trailer beside them were gone, and Michelle and her husband were buried in debris inside their truck.  Michelle says,  "I don't know why we got left, but we got left."

Michelle's injuries were serious, four lacerations down to the bone in her upper left arm, one continuing into her chest, two compound fractures, and her right thumb was sliced open and dislocated.

"He got the better deal.  He got a black eye and a couple of scratches on his head," says Michelle of Alan's injuries.

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Alan tried to get her out of the truck, and couldn't until a complete stranger came to help.  Michelle says, "I wish I could find out who helped my husband get me out of the truck, because they were really great."

That man helped get Michelle to the hospital.  She's had five surgeries so far.  "So they could try to keep my arm on my body, and so far, it's working," Michelle says.

Michelle is thankful to still have her life and her family.  "I feel so bad for the ones that lost their kids and their families," Michelle says.

She's still working on recovery.  "I can pull my fingers, but I can't pull them back out," Michelle says.

But the tornado has not taken away her strength.  "I'm glad it's me and not my kids or my husband.  I can take it," Michelle says.

Michelle and Alan's home was damaged by the tornado and rain, but it is repairable, so she and her family feel blessed that they still have a place to call home.

See the attached photo gallery of Michelle Smith's pickup.

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