TUSCALOOSA, AL (PIX11) -- The deadliest twisters to tear across the U.S. in nearly four decades have killed hundreds and injured thousands.
Now, a day later, amazing stories of survival are emerging -- the family that rode it out in the basement of a funeral home, a mother who grabbed 2 daughters and took shelter inside a tanning bed.
And then there's the tale of a man who had relocated from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to ground zero of the twister outbreak: Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Forecasters say the tornado that roared through Tuscaloosa, AL is likely an EF5, the deadliest kind. At a mile wide, it had winds destroying everything in its path clocked at more than 200 miles an hour.
Chris and Debra Wozniak's house was flattened, their entire neighborhood ripped apart. But Chris and his two Jack Russell dogs survived inside a tiny bathroom; his wife rode out the storm across town at the University of Alabama. The recent transplant from the Lower East Side told his harrowing tale.
Chris Wozniak had been looking out his side door when the voracious twister hit, "It just blocked out the sky it was so wide. It didn’t look like a tornado, it looked like a wall of doom."
Forecasters gave 24 minutes warning that the monster tornado was on the move. It carved a path of destruction in 6 states, killing roughly 300. Yet it was deadliest in Alabama, with 194 lives lost.
Wozniak recounted the horror of the approach, “It was just, oh my God, right in front of me, dead center, and then it just rolled over me. I thought, ‘this is an absolutely ridiculously pointless way to die. It was so arbitrary.’”
But Wozniak, with his two dogs leashed around his waist survived by running for cover in the bathroom. He described how he protected himself, “I put on a motorcycle helmet and put a sofa cushion over me and literally, just as I got into the tub, the ground started shaking, the whole house started shaking, and I knew I was definitely going to get hit.”
He described what he saw as the tornado roared overhead, “When I opened my door my living room just blew away, and then a Krispy Kreme truck hit upside down, then the whole house fell on top of me and a pickup truck just fell out of the sky and landed five feet to my right, and then another car twelve feet away, just right out of the sky. The whole thing was maybe eight seconds long. It was unreal.”
Wozniak said his two dogs looked like kites as the tornado tried to rip them off the leashes attached to his waist and into the sky.
National Guards troops responded in minutes, Wozniak said, as he pulled himself from the ruins of his house with just cuts to his legs and arms. He directed them to neighbors' homes where he'd heard a woman's screams and another, where he knew there was a new baby. “My street doesn’t exist anymore; it’s a gash in the earth. I was on my street and didn’t know it,” Wozniak recounted.