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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Missouri teen survives ride in tornado

Missouri teen survives ride in tornado

"On the night of the tornado, Suter said, he was watching television news in only his boxer shorts when he heard a jetlike roar approaching the trailer he shared with his grandmother and uncle . . .

A large heavy glass lamp struck Suter on the top of his head, knocking him unconscious, he said.

When he came to, Suter found himself in a soft, grassy pasture. Last week a global positioning satellite device used by National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Gaede measured the distance at 1,307 feet from the trailer site . . .

Tom Grazulis, a Vermont meteorologist who studies tornado behavior, said he knew of no person who traveled as far as Suter and survived.

“It was remarkable. It’s just so rare to have someone carried that distance,” said Grazulis, who oversees a research entity called the Tornado Project and is author of a 2001 book, The Tornado: Nature’s Ultimate Windstorm.

Grazulis said 300 to 400 feet was about the limit in order to survive a tornado-toss. One 9-year-old girl and her pony survived a 1,000-foot flight in 1955, but this was the longest previously known distance, he said.

“People who get tossed a quarter of a mile get killed in the air or in the fall or were dead when they were lifted up,” Grazulis said.

To live through his ordeal, Suter must have been lifted straight up and managed to avoid being struck by whatever debris went up with him at the same time, Grazulis said. He sort of “went with the flow” in an unconscious state, he said."