Guin tornado survivors recall 1974 storm (Part One)

GUIN, Ala. (WIAT) — A violent F-5 tornado nearly wiped Guin, Alabama off the map on April 3, 1974.

The storm hit at 9 p.m. and claimed the lives of 23 people.

It began as a sunny, muggy day. Seven-year-old Keith Miller was home sick from school, and weather was the furthest thing from his mind.

Elderly neighbors, perhaps familiar and seasoned with severe storms, headed to a tornado shelter buried beneath earth at 4 p.m.

Later that evening, the Millers and many others in Guin were winding down for the night. At 8:58 p.m., a deep, constant rumble began to shake the ground and their home.

“Mom come hustling through into my room,” said Keith Miller. “I still have the image in her face – the terror in her eyes. I remember her going, ‘we’ve got to go to the storm cellar.’ You know, I used to play on this thing as a kid before the storm.”

From a playground to a lifeline, these concrete slabs meant life or death, if they could make it.

“My dad and sister were in front of us. Apparently at the time I didn’t realize how close it was,” Miller said.

“We got out to the carport and there was branches and limbs blowing past Keith and I, and the wind, I couldn’t go against the wind,” Reba Miller-Grogan said. “I just stopped. It’s like my mind froze in time.”

The group made their way towards the cellar. It took numerous people to close the door.

Once inside, they could feel the pressure drop. “It’s like, the sounds is like everyone described, like being next to a 747 as it takes off,” Miller said.

“I no sooner sat down before I heard this noise. It was like pulling up a huge tree trunk, and it was going over the storm cellar. It was like cracking and it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever heard,” Miller –Grogan said.

The sounds was the shelter being sucked from the ground.

As they climbed out, the horror they would see, hear and feel was unimaginable. Finding neighbors who didn’t make it in time.

Pinned under a piano from the Baptist church block away, Janet Brown was grasping for life.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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