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Woodward Woman Shares Stories Of Survival In Two Deadly Tornadoes

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Nelson says a weather radio she keeps next to her bed is why she survived. Nelson says a weather radio she keeps next to her bed is why she survived.
Nelson said Sunday's tornado was a lot shorter in duration than the one that claimed 107 lives here in 1947. Nelson said Sunday's tornado was a lot shorter in duration than the one that claimed 107 lives here in 1947.

Steve Shaw, News 9

WOODWARD, Oklahoma -- Tales of survival are coming out of Woodward after a tornado touches down in the dark of night. It destroyed 89 homes and 13 businesses, and killed six people and injured dozens more.

News 9 spoke with one special woman with a history of riding out these storms.

News 9's complete storm coverage.

Wilma Nelson was 23 years old when the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history basically leveled Woodward in 1947. Nelson rode that one out underneath the dining room table. She said a weather radio she keeps next to her bed is why she survived.

Nelson said the weather radio woke her up and she was able to get into a closet just before the tornado hit early Sunday morning.

"I had just got the door shut when I heard it. And it sounded like an explosion. I mean, I guess that's when my roof went off," Nelson said.

Nelson said Sunday's tornado was a lot shorter in duration than the one that claimed 107 lives here in 1947. But this one was much more dangerous for Nelson. When it tore the roof off her house, it sent a large piece of sheet rock crashing onto her head.

"I was shaking like a leaf," Nelson said.

"It's a miracle she's alive. Just thank god for that," said Robin Gregory, Nelson's daughter.

After Sunday's tornado, debris blocked Nelson's closet door shut.

"And I heard the neighbors, I have some lovely neighbors, and they were hollering ‘Mrs. Wilma, are you alright?'"

Nelson's house is gone, but you just know Nelson is going to be okay.

"I'm very proud of her. She's much, much stronger than any of us are," Gregory said.

Nelson will be moving into an assisted-living home pretty soon, and she said she's okay with that. She said she's also okay with what happened to her, if that will encourage people to spend as little as $30 to buy a weather radio.

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