Smyth County

Mother and daughter survive tornado in Oklahoma

Local Oklahoma survivor

CHILHOWIE, Va. - The death toll from storms that ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma last Friday continues to rise; the deadly tornado and violent flash flooding have now claimed twenty lives.

A local woman who was in that area when the storms hit talked with one of our news crews Wednesday afternoon.

Food City Assistant Manager Sherry Zimmerman works in Chilhowie, Virginia. Her office is a quiet and serene place compared to the mayhem she faced last week -- she was hunkered down in a storm shelter south of Oklahoma City. "The two [tornadoes] that came after the first one were the scariest. Some of [the other people] had gotten up to go to the bathroom and they were running back into the rooms," said Zimmerman who had taken her daughter, Virginia Tech student Cassidy Heath, to the area for an internship.

They had taken refuge in some underground classrooms at a community college.

"The only thing we heard was when part of the roof came off," she said.

And the silence that followed was eerie. "I was scared then. When they first let us out, the sky was nothing but lightning everywhere and it was really, really dark. And after that you could see the metal wrapped around poles, the water was coming through the roof that had been blown off," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said she has a new respect for Mother Nature. "I didn't understand the power," said Zimmerman, who recommends that every family have an emergency plan of action, no matter where you live.

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