Naplate Woman’s “Surreal” Survival: Riding Out Tornado In Her Closet

CHICAGO (CBS) — As a powerful tornado ravaged the small village of Naplate on Tuesday, one woman survived the twister by hiding out in her closet, even as her home was lifted off its foundation, suffering only a small scratch in the process.

Along the Illinois River, an EF-3 tornado began ripping the tops off trees and tearing homes apart Tuesday afternoon in Naplate.

Nancy Warner knows that first hand. She rode out the storm in her closet.

“It’s surreal to see that I actually lived through that,” she said.

Warner laid on the floor as her home was lifted off its foundation and ripped apart.

“I could feel it shaking and moving,” she said.

She said it was the most terrifying two minutes of her life.

“It was very scary. I didn’t know if I’d come out or not,” she said.

When the storm twisted out of the village, Warner stumbled out of her home into a surreal wasteland.

“It was just crazy; just like somebody came through with a bomb, and just set it all off, and just left a mess,” she said.

Nancy Warner was hiding in the closet of her home in Naplate as a tornado lifted it off the foundation and tore it apart on Feb. 28, 2017. (Credit: CBS)

Nancy Warner was hiding in the closet of her home in Naplate as a tornado lifted it off the foundation and tore it apart on Feb. 28, 2017. (Credit: CBS)

On Thursday, she returned to what was left of her home for the first time since the storm, along with her father, daughter, and granddaughter; who all wanted to see the destruction first hand.

“I’m speechless. I can’t believe that she walked out of here unharmed,” said her daughter, Brandi.

Warner only suffered a small scratch on her shin. The 49-year-old grandmother believes she knows why.

“My mom passed away a couple years ago, and my best friend passed away about four years ago, so they were watching over me very much,” Warner said.

Warner’s daughter said she gets tears in her eyes thinking about it.

“She was in that closet, and she walked out unharmed. It’s unbelievable. I keep saying my grandma must have been with her, because there’s no other reason that she should have made it out of there,” Brandi said.

The American Red Cross was in LaSalle County to help assess the damage and provide mental health counselors for the survivors cope with what they’ve lost.

Ameren crews also were working to restore power in Ottawa and Naplate.

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