John and Stacey Sullivan sell insurance in Oklahoma, so they have seen their fair share of storm damage. However, on a business trip to Nebraska last week, they saw more than their fair share.
While renewing an insurance contract in Macy, Nebraska the couple was made aware of a large tornadic storm headed for the town. They decided to try and outrun the storm and make it to their hotel in Omaha, 70 miles south. With nothing but blue skies ahead of them, the Sullivans believed they were safe. They weren’t, and in a matter of moments, the storm was on them.
“I guess the storm changed directions,” Stacey said. “We got onto the interstate and sometime between getting on the on-ramp and getting off of it, the storm was on us.” With sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, baseball-sized hail and torrential rain, the tempest proved too much for the Sullivan's car, and shortly after they pulled to the side of the road, their front and rear windshields were shattered. With the rain, wind and hail now finding their way freely into the car, the couple did what they could to stay safe.
"Stacey took my coat and her briefcase and held them over her head," John said. "I couldn't stop thinking about the car turning over and how I was going to take care of her if it did." The couple rode out the storm for fifteen terrifying minutes until the clouds parted, the winds died and the rain slowed. John had sustained several blows to the head from the hail, and there was almost an inch of standing water at the couple's feet, but they were alive with just minor injuries.
The couple followed some concerned firefighters the remaining ten miles to Omaha, past downed trees and overturned semi trucks, and sought shelter from the remnants of the storm in their hotel. When they arrived several national news teams, including NBC and the Weather Channel, were already covering the story.
"They asked if we wanted to do an interview with them," John said. "I guess for them, the story had just arrived because here we are from the storm capital of America, stuck in Nebraska of all places." After giving an interview for "The Today Show" and the Weather Channel, the Sullivans called their rental company, left the keys at the hotel's front desk, and turned in for a good night's rest, though Stacey says she was really shaken up at the time.
"It was the most terrifying experience of my life," she said. "Luckily we survived and we can put it all behind us."