Bern Residents Ride Out EF3 Tornado In Basements, Bathtub

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BERN, Kansas (WIBW) -- Residents around the town of Bern bore the brunt of the storm Tuesday night.

An EF3 tornado touched down in Nemaha County Tuesday around 10:30 p.m. -- and several homes were in its path.

13 News visited Bern and talked to some folks busy cleaning debris and quite literally picking up the pieces of their lives from the ground.

"I looked out the window and I saw the wall cloud through the lightning." Vern Grose and his wife, Rita, were about to go to bed like normal, when their weather radio and cell phones began beeping. Vern said he ignored the first alert, but the second made Rita jump out of bed and down to the basement.

It wasn't until he actually saw the wall cloud getting closer and closer to his house from his back window he decided to join her in the basement. He said he knew for sure the storm was a tornado just by the loud roaring he heard outside.

"Two minutes later the house was destroyed. The next thing that happened in the basement, water started running in on us and the insulation was coming down, and I told the wife, we lost our house."

Vern and Rita stumbled up the stairs to find their newly remodeled house completely turned upside down. The brick walls of the house they build in the 80s were still partially standing, but the rest of it was debris - an obvious sign that they got to the basement just in time.

"We wouldn't have been here if it wasn't for the basement."

Their cars were destroyed and a large garage was also leveled.

Close by, Helen Meyer and her husband Leroy had been doing the same thing, getting ready for bed. Their cell phones began alerting them to take cover. She ran to the basement while Leroy looked out the window.

"The sound I heard was just a constant roar and my ears started popping. I could feel pressure, like I was in an airplane, and that's when I said, it's a tornado get down here!"

They came up from the basement a half hour later, and by that time friends and family had already come out to help.

"We came up and he looked out the kitchen window and he said, the shed doesn't look so good. I said, what do you mean the shed doesn't look so good? And he said, it's gone."

The Meyers own a lot of heavy farming equipment that was stored in a large shed. It was totally collapsed, other outside structures were destroyed and trees and rubble litter the Meyer's yard.

"The house is fine! And he put his arms around me and said, we have each other and the house. And I said, that's all I need!"

Some weren't so lucky to find a basement to take shelter in.

Joann Enzler and her boyfriend Sean rode the storm out in their bathtub - which is no where to be found. Their home is leveled and many of their belongings missing or unsalvageable - including their cars.

Joann said the wind started getting louder and she heard debris flying around outside, so she ran for the bathroom because their home didn't have a basement. Sean grabbed the dogs from the garage and climbed into the tub on top of her.

"Something fell on top of us. Sean said the bathtub flipped on its side, and then I could feel it trying to lift us, but what was on us probably saved us. Then it was just like, gone."

Joann and Sean aren't sure where the bathtub went.

They ran barefoot across the field in their backyard to Sean's grandmother's house, which was still standing. Sean used her truck to take Joann to the hospital. She suffered a puncture to her arm and bruising.

Joann and Sean, just like the Groses and the Meyers, had friends and family helping clean up debris all day.

"Our whole community, they're helping. Everyone I work with. People have offered us houses. It's very scary. Don't want to ever go through it again."

Vern Grose is able to keep a positive attitude about the whole thing.

"We survived. That's the main thing. The house is a total loss but we're not hurt. We'll rebuild."

Joann and Sean said God saved them that night. "We weren't supposed to die, amazingly, I don't know how we didn't. We're still here. We're going to rebuild it! We're going to put a basement in, that's for damn sure."

Bern was without power all day long. More than 10 power lines were downed in the area, and Westar Energy crews from Manhattan were out repairing them.

Nemaha County Sheriff Rich Vernon went to Seneca with county commissioners to file for a disaster declaration.

Minor injuries and no deaths were reported.