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Survivor remembers May 3, 1999 tornado

MOORE, Okla. — This day 13 years ago, a deadly monster roared across central Oklahoma and the metro.

The EF-5 tornado on May 3, 1999 claimed more than 40 lives and destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars in property.

Now we hear from a survivor who rode out the storm under a bridge that turned into a death trap.

“The winds probably in excess of 300 mph. I can hear people screamin’ as they blew by,” Survivor Stuart Earnest said.

Earnest was driving up 1-35 near Moore that day when the hail core of the storm hit.

He found shelter for his car under a bridge.

“The Shields overpass is right over here to the southwest of where we are standing,” he said.

Maybe good shelter from hail but the Shields overpass was a bad place to be when the EF-5 twister suddenly made its appearance.

Earnest said, “When the tornado hit, people started getting sucked out from under the bridge. By God’s grace I was the only person left under the bridge.”

After the storm passed Stuart ran down the embankment to help the injured who had been blown out from under the bridge and into a nearby field.

“The first person I saw was a Vietnamese gentleman who had just lost his wife. He was holding on to both of his kids and he continued to ask me where his wife was at and I said, ‘Sir, I don’t know.’”

Tragically the man’s’ wife had been killed in the tornado.

Her body was found a few days later.

Looking at the serenity of the scene now gives Earnest an eerie feeling but he is not surprised residents have found a way to overcome the damage in this area.

“This area has regrown. They rebuilt.  They’re Oklahomans.”

Stuart survived the storm, covered in mud, but otherwise uninjured.

Remember Mike Morgan, the 4Warn Storm Team and the National Weather Service say it’s never a good idea to find shelter from a tornado under a bridge or underpass.