Closets save many lives from devastating Baxter Springs tornado - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Closets save many lives from devastating Baxter Springs tornado

Many families say they ran for shelter minutes before a tornado hit their Baxter Springs neighborhood. Many families say they ran for shelter minutes before a tornado hit their Baxter Springs neighborhood.
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BAXTER SPRINGS, KS (KCTV) -

Many terrified families say they ran for shelter minutes before a tornado hit their Baxter Springs neighborhood.

Neighbors say when they took their first step outside, they thought a large number of people would be badly injured. However, they are relieved few had serious injuries.

Most survived in their closets.

Leslie Morgan says a closet in his home saved his teen daughter's life.

"We took two steps into the closet, and then it happened," Leslie Morgan's daughter, Nikki Morgan said.

At that very moment a tornado ripped the roof off the Morgan's home.

"I honestly thought we were going to be gone," said Nikki Morgan, who was home with her boyfriend at the time. They clutched each other in fear and cried.

Leslie Morgan did too.

"The house is basically in my front room," Leslie Morgan said.

He rushed home to find his neighbor's home tossed into his. He frantically searched for his daughter.

Leslie Morgan considers it a miracle that his daughter survived.

"I thank God," he said. "I don't see how anybody could live through that. She was right in the closet. Every room in this house was destroyed except the one she was in."

"We ran to each other crying," Nikki Morgan said. "I thank God a lot for protecting me."

As the family spent Monday cleaning up, they say they have a new perspective.

"I could care less about any of this stuff here," Leslie Morgan said.

"I really do appreciate the family I have," Nikki Morgan said. "I honestly thought we were going to be gone.'

Many homes were ripped off their foundations. Neighbors say the cleanup will be a long process.

Karen Irving who survived the tornado said her neighbor's house wound up in the middle of the street wrapped around another neighbor's home. The last time she saw something like that "was on the Wizard of Oz," she said.

She and her husband raced to their closet and crouched down.

Michael Hessee looked outside and saw the tornado coming down from the clouds. He could hear a roar and thought he could see his carport sucked away.

"I saw stuff spinning in it. I thought that's a real tornado," he said, adding that he grabbed his wife and raced for their middle bedroom closet. "We hunkered down. It seemed like two minutes and it was over. I just got over the top of her head and protected her head . . . . I couldn't believe it. It's just mind boggling."

One of the nine who had been to be hospitalized was an older woman who couldn't make it to her closet.

She was found inside the one room in her residence that wasn't destroyed. The homeowner suffered cuts and back pain.

"We are really glad she came out of it OK. She's a real nice lady," Irving said.

Once the Morgans were reunited, Leslie Morgan hugged his daughter as tight as he ever had.

"I just said I loved her and sorry she had to go through that," he said.

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