HAIL TO THE CHIEF: Viewer’s Personal Encounter With A Tornado

James Zahara Weather Blog

When someone asks me ‘what is your biggest fear as the television meteorologist?’  My reply would be when a tornado is on the ground and is ready to impact to a small residential town in our viewing area.  Folks, My heart just drops, praying that families are heeding the warnings and taking immediate action.  Here is a great example of that.

I received a letter from a gentleman that went through an experience just over a week ago that he would never want to go encounter for the rest of your life.  You may remember this event when several tornadoes raced through Mercer County.  When you read his story you will ask yourself ‘how did he survive?’  Well, he did because he heed the warning.  This is one of the most humbling responses a broadcast meteorologist could receive and cherish for a long time.  Please read his encounter:

My name is Jack Harraman. I have property at 2878 120th Avenue in Viola and was there on Saturday, July 12. I wanted to add a little to your story about the tornadoes you reported on. A tornado ripped through my property that night and took with it my carriage house, camper, garage and whatever else was in its path.

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This appears to be the same tornado that touched down 4.25 miles southeast of Matherville. My truck was pushed into my car, basically destroying both. I was in the house watching WQAD when they flashed an alert stating there were circular formations near Matherville. Shortly after that warning I saw and heard it coming. I immediately laid down on the floor covering my head with my arms as James has always said we should do if a tornado is about to hit.

After it was over, I found myself about 25 feet from the house, laying on the ground with my hands still over my head so as not to be hit by the objects flying around. I have no idea how I got there. I then made my way over to the car looking for a place to stay warm and dry. I had a flashlight in the car that came in handy when after a couple of hours I saw some people driving down the road. The downed power poles and lines that were lying across the road stopped them.

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I signaled them with my flashlight and made my way over to them. They let me use their cell phone to call my wife at home in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. They called 911 to report the downed power lines and that dispatcher asked to talk to me and I let them know a tornado had touched down. The people then took me to the hospital in Aledo to be checked out. Funny thing is we didn’t see damage to anyone else’s property except for damage to some crops and a few trees down.

I just wanted to let you know that your weather alerts do help. THANK YOU!
Jack Harraman

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