Monster Tornado Caught Parkersburg by Surprise

Lester listened to the commotion over the phone and could hear the boys as they tried to cram everyone into a tiny restroom. Finally, as the tornado approached, Tyann heard Jessie scream, "Here it comes, get down, get down."

Just then, the phone died.

"I let out a bloodcurdling scream, fell to my knees. … And all I could say was, My baby's in there," Lester recalled.

Outside of town, police chief Chris Luhring was unaware that a tornado was bearing down on Parkersbug. In fact, he had made an uncharacteristic mistake. "I'm always ready and prepared. I will tell you that on that day. … I didn't have my pager or my cell phone on me," said Chris.

Suddenly, his in-laws' phone rang.

"My wife's uncle had called and said that his house was in the middle of the street. And in my mind, I'm going, no way, but I'm ready to roll," he said.

Chief Luhring jumped in his truck and sped toward town. At first, the view was reassuring. "I remember coming over the top of the hills, I said, The water tower's still up. The water tower's there."

But what he saw next was beyond all imagination.

"The only thing I could think in my head, this is atomic."

Who lives? Who dies? To find out, watch 20/20 Blown Away: Twisted Terror at Friday at 10 p.m.

Click here to see how tornadoes form and to get safety tips for your family.

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