Southern Tornadoes: How One Air Traffic Controller Led Planes to Safety as a Tornado Loomed Overhead

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Controller Guided Planes to Safety as Tornado Threatened

As the tornado loomed, Harrison and his partner kept working. "It was crazy but it was one of those things where controllers are sort of hardwired," he said. "You are really zoned into the work itself."

Because of the advanced radar and imaging technology in the center, Harrison could see exactly where the tornado was headed. Despite the possible threat to his safety, Harrison said he was most worried about his family and friends who lived in the path of the storm.

"You are a lot scared for your family and a little scared for yourself," he said. "We're such a tight-knit group and everyone knows where everyone lives… We're trying to call our buddies, trying to look out for everyone else and the airplanes, all at the same time."

By 11:30 p.m. Atlanta's Hartsfield airport had closed. Ultimately, the tornado hit just two miles from the command center. Harrison said he didn't feel a thing when the twister struck.

The severity of the storm didn't really sink in for Harrison until he left work. "The next morning when I'm driving home, everything was totally wiped out," he said. Luckily, his family and his home were fine.

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