Saturday, April 29, 2017, is a day that no one expected would end with nine tornadoes in a four-hour span.
It happened in East Texas, and the lives of everyone affected were changed forever. The most intense storm was an EF-4, which has become the strongest storm on record for Van Zandt County.
Cheryl Hughes and her husband Keny were at home as the storms started to intensify during the afternoon. Little did they know, this EF-4 tornado with peak winds at 180 mph would destroy their home.
Her husband checked the storm on their back porch, and as Cheryl came to meet him at the door, Keny said, “Turn around — get into the bathroom. We need to get into the bathroom now.”
So they did, and before Cheryl could ask her husband what he saw outside, the final thing she remembers is him saying, “Whelp! There goes the roof!”
Both Cheryl and Keny were picked up by the tornado. She was thrown near the neighbor’s house, and Keny died from his injuries.
A few days later, her son-in-law showed her pictures of the damage across her property. Her response was one of faith and hope in God.
“How did I survive that? How did I live through that? And that’s when you realize that the hand of God was the only reason I survived. I believe that with all my heart”, Hughes said.
One year later, Hughes is nearing completion of her new home. While it will be a new place to live, it will be a lot different not having her husband alongside her. Their family has also installed an underground tornado shelter.
This same tornado also hit the Schofield property, just about 3 to 4 miles away. Tina Schofield and her family were watching the storms closely from two homes and keeping each other updated with text messages.
As the tornado approached, Tina began to notice changes start to occur outdoors and in her body.
“It was just gray outside. I couldn’t see a tornado, I didn’t hear anything yet. The pressure changed, and it just felt different. I got back inside and I told Ken that we needed to get to the bathroom.”
As they took shelter, the tornado came through, throwing them around in their home.
Her son was completely thrown from his home.
“My son, he flew out of his house in a cast-iron bathtub and landed in the patio area. He stayed in the tub the whole time. I don’t know how because he could not get a mattress to cover up with. He just had a blanket, I think,” Tina said.
The next text message from her son made her worst fear become reality. “‘I have no roof!’ And then he said, ‘I have no house!'”
One year later, Tina and her family’s homes are about complete. However, Tina said you can still see the scars of that terrifying day.
Uphill Farm, the nickname that her parents named the property, is certainly on the rise after being put through an intense tornado. For Tina, she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The National Weather Service Office in Fort Worth has an extensive report of these all seven tornadoes that hit Henderson, Hopkins, Rains and Van Zandt counties that day. You can read more about them here.