Lee's Summit residents prayed, grabbed smart phones during torna - KCTV5

Lee's Summit residents prayed, grabbed smart phones during tornado

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LEE'S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) -

Sirens blared as the tornado cut a mile-long path through Lee's Summit Wednesday night.

As the storm barreled toward homes and businesses, some residents huddled together prayed for their safety. Others armed with smart phones headed outside to take videos.

"I've never witnessed a tornado right before my eyes," said Alphonso Hodge, an employee at Yes! Fitness in Lee's Summit.

Hodge, a former Chiefs player, and Sean Sims, a parent, helped get the 30 children inside the fitness facility to safety.

"We decided to put the girls in the girls bathroom and boys in the boys bathroom," Sims said.

As 100-mph winds swirled around them, the two men headed to a door to watch the storm. They saw trees tossed through the air and roofs ripped apart.

"The adrenaline got the best of us," Sims said. "We made sure no matter what the women, the children, the boys they were safe."

They grabbed their phones and hit record. They saw the tornado hit a strip mall and destroy a fireworks tent near Lee' Summit North High School. They were amazed by the experience but also grateful that no one was hurt.

"To catch a natural disaster and live through it was amazing," Sims said. "I was thanking God. I thank God it missed us but I feel sorry for those people."

Both men said they would never forget what they saw or the adrenaline rush. They also said one tornado in their lifetimes is more than enough.

Sims said he plans to stay indoors the next time he hears a tornado siren.

Customers inside a Thai restaurant left their dinners behind as they ran for cover. Ceiling tiles fell and electrical cables dangled as the winds peeled away the roof tiles.

A clothing store at a battered Lee's Summit shopping center saw about $30,000 in damage. Thai Spice's owner lost about $5,000 in food.

Workers and customers at the fireworks stand raced to a nearby house as the tornado raced toward them.

"These fireworks are important because we were working for a cause but it's not worth losing your life," volunteer Rebecca Fisher said.

Those inside Spring Nails on Douglas Road huddled together as the ceiling began to fall.

"It was really scary. We were nervous," owner Binh Nguyen said. "We pulled together and just prayed."

And just as suddenly as the winds swept toward Lee's Summit, the tornado lifted up into the clouds.

The area was quite lucky, said National Weather Service meteorologist Elbert Pietrycha.

"This could have been a lot worse," he said. "Just on the other side of the high school it's a big residential area. The tornado dissipated before it got to that."

The high school's roof was damaged while a scoreboard and soccer goal were shredded.

KCTV5's Heather Staggers, Jonathan Carter and Chris Suchan contributed to this report.

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