Weather Channel airing documentary on March tornado

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A documentary about the tornado that ripped through Perry County on March 11 will be aired on national television next week.

Perry County residents will describe their memories of the tornado on The Weather Channel's "Storm Stories," which will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The "Storm Stories" series focuses on the experiences of survivors and rescuers who have battled some of the most extraordinary weather events.

The documentary's producer, Josh Gershenson of Tower Productions in Chicago, Ill., said the Perry County tornado episode will focus on the aftermath of the F3 tornado and how residents were affected.

"For the rest of their life, these people are going to have to deal with the reprucussions of a 30-second tornado. I think we were successful in showing how these residents are dealing with this one moment," Gershenson said.

Immediately following the tornado, Gershenson and production crews spent one week gathering footage in Perry County for the episode.

The 30-minute show will feature sheriff's deputy Carl Manche, who was sitting in his vehicle on U.S. 61 when the tornado swept through. Local families will also share their stories from that night.

Perry County residents Ronnie and Loretta Hyde were interviewed for the episode. The couple's home along Route NN was destroyed.

Loretta Hyde said she, her husband and 5-year-old grandson were home the night of the tornado. "We heard the roaring and didn't have time to get to our fruit cellar, so we got in a closet underneath the stairs," she said.

The couple lost almost everything. Several of their barns were destroyed, some of their livestock was swept away and their vehicle was totaled.

"We have never complained because it could have killed us. We were lucky," Loretta Hyde said.

She said she plans to watch the "Storm Stories" episode. "It will be hard to watch because it will bring back a lot of sad memories," she said.

The March 11 tornado took the lives of two Perry County residents. Michael and Barbara Schaefer were driving south on U.S. 61, trying to escape the tornado, when their vehicle drove directly into the path of the tornado. Their vehicle was blown off the roadway into a large propane storage tank.

"For the Perry County tornado, I went there hoping to bring back something great and emotional, and I think we succeeded," Gershenson said.

"It's hard to document these people at their lowest point and not be able to help them," he said. "All of the families were so open and so comfortable in front of the camera, it was difficult to say good-bye to them."

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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