Brady Street stood directly in the path of the deadly tornado that tore through Harrisburg before dawn.
The roaring twister destroyed seven of the 10 duplexes on the small street, leaving behind piles of splintered lumber, torn insulation and totaled cars.
Five of the six people killed in the storm lived on Brady Street. Their four duplexes simply disappeared, blown off their foundations and disintegrating into the path of debris that stretched across the neighborhood.
When Jeff Rann heard the sirens, he raced through the darkness in his pickup truck to his parents' duplex on Brady. He saw instantly there was nothing left, natural gas whistling eerily as it spewed from a severed meter. In the mud of a debris-strewn field, Rann found the body of his dad, 65-year-old Randy Rann, and his mother, 62-year-old Donna Rann.
"She just said, 'It hurts. It hurts,' " Rann said of his mother, who had been looking forward to early retirement next month but who died a short time later at a hospital.
Darrell Osman's mother Mary also lived on Brady street. After the tornado hit, he arrived at her home just in time to speak to her before she was taken to a hospital with a
, a severe cut to her neck and a
“She was conscious. I wouldn't say she was coherent. There were more mumbles than anything,” he said. “She knew we were there.”
Mary Osman, 75, died a short time later. "My mother was a Christian," Osman said as he and his sister sorted through twisted debris and chunks of pink insulation at the site of their mother's duplex. “I know she's in a better place. That is the only thing getting me through this.”
Osman's daughter, Dena McDonald, returned this morning to the empty lot where her mother's house had stood, trying to salvage family mementos.
"We're in disbelief," McDonald said, watching as her husband dug through debris. "There are no words to describe this."
Cinderblocks littered the ground like discarded
pieces. Refrigerators and cars were crushed beneath mountains of plywood and siding.
Jaylynn Ferrell, 22, lived next door to Osman and was also killed in the tornado. Her duplex was destroyed, the tornado leaving nothing but the concrete slab.
Ferrell was a registered nurse who worked the night shift in the intensive care unit at Harrisburg's hospital, her family said. She grew up in Herod, about 15 miles outside Harrisburg, and was working toward a bachelor's degree in
, they said.
Ferrell, who had relatives in the Chicago suburbs of Wheaton, Warrenville and
, was " a go-getter" and attended First Baptist Church in Harrisburg, said her paternal grandmother, Ann Ferrell.
"She always wanted more," Ferrell said. "She would always go the extra mile to better herself."
Her death has devastated her family, said her maternal grandmother, Anita Peters. "We're numb," Peters said. "We know she's gone, but we're all firm Christians and we know she's in heaven."
Harrisburg Mayor Gregg called the tornado strike "heartbreaking." The National Weather Service preliminarily listed the tornado as an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said the tornado was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.
The city of 9,000 was caught in the crosshairs of a storm that raked the nation's midsection Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in three states.
In southern Missouri, one person was killed in a Buffalo trailer park while two more fatalities were reported in the Cassville and Puxico areas. A tornado hopscotched through the main thoroughfare of Missouri country music mecca Branson, damaging some of the city's famous theaters just days before the start of the town's crucial tourist season.
Three people were reported killed in eastern Tennessee -- two in Cumberland County and another in
And in Kansas, much of tiny Harveyville was in shambles from what state officials said was an EF2 tornado packing wind speeds of 120 to 130 mph.
At least 16 tornadoes were reported from Nebraska and Kansas across southern Missouri to Illinois and Kentucky, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., an arm of the National Weather Service.
In Harrisburg, which has a rich coal-mining history, staffers at the medical center were alerted to the tornado's approach by the sheriff's department some 20 minutes before the severe weather finally threw its punch, the center's CEO Vince Ashley said.
"We get these calls periodically, and often it's a false alarm," Ashley said. "But we get them often enough that everyone knows what to do."
Nurses hustled the patients into the hallways and away from their room's windows, closing the doors behind them, and were fighting to close the last of the heavy, steel fire doors at the end of the hallway when the tornado came, Ashley said. Seconds later, he said, windows started shattering, walls shook and ceiling tiles rattled.
The fierce winds blew some walls off some rooms, leaving disheveled beds and misplaced furniture but miraculously no injuries. Hours later, Ashley said some of the destroyed portions of the hospital will have to be razed and rebuilt.
Nearby, across the road from Randy and Donna Rann, Amanda Patrick was rousted by the sirens about five minutes before all hell broke loose. She called Donna Rann -- her co-worker at the U.S. Forest Service -- to alert them but got no answer, then thrust herself into a bathtub as the twister she described as sounding "like a bulldozer and Hoover vacuum at the same time" ripped through.
"Not trying to be holy, I got on my knees and said, 'God, watch over me,'" she said.
The winds shifted the tub as the walls buckled above her. In a gray T-shirt and pink striped pajama pants, she crawled shoeless out into the rain and muck.
She called out for the Ranns but heard nothing back.
Hours later, tears streamed down Patrick's face as she grieved for the late couple.
"A couple weeks ago, there was a bad storm and I looked out the window to check on them," she said, sobbing. "Donna texted me and said, 'I saw you in the window.' She was checking on me. That's the way we were, always just looking out for each other."