- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

DELMONT, S.D. (AP) - Michael Williams gathered the courage to peek up from his hiding spot, just as winds forced his home off of its base.

He watched as his furnace, belongings and even himself were flung around the basement of his Delmont house. He watched as a tornado ripped apart his home on the morning of May 10, 2015 - Mother’s Day.

On Tuesday, it’s been one year since the destruction hit Delmont.

All Williams remembers is six seconds. But, a year later, he remembers them vividly.

“(Rescuers) put a ladder down, got me out of the debris that was all around, and they basically told me, ‘Michael, do not look back. Just keep your head on the ground and we’re taking you to get some help because it looks like your arm is badly injured,’” he told The Daily Republic newspaper (https://bit.ly/1Obfr4A).

The force of the wind had thrown Williams against a wall, briefly knocking him unconscious, and threw wooden pallets on top of his body. The pallets were littered with debris and didn’t shelter Williams from heavy blocks that fell on top, crushing his left shoulder, but were enough to anchor him in place.

Williams believes without the pallets, the wind could potentially have blown him away like it did the majority of his belongings.

Bloodied and unable to lift his arm, Williams was loaded into a vehicle and taken to the west end of town where a South Dakota Highway Patrolman was waiting to transport him to the hospital.

“I remember, on the way, kind of glancing up, but I really couldn’t talk,” Williams said. “I was looking, I see, I hear … but I was in shock because five minutes earlier everything was normal.”

About 2 miles outside of Delmont, the patrolman transporting Williams met an ambulance, where Williams made another vehicle change, and was taken to Armour.

Though some of the cuts were extensive, none required stitches, and Williams wears the scars like a badge of honor.

“Everyone told me, ‘Williams I don’t know how you made it, you should be dead,’” he said. “It was that unbelievable.”

In the past year, Williams e has begun visiting a counselor in an attempt to make sense of the overwhelming emotions he was experiencing and continues to experience. Through his counseling, he learned that when a person goes through a traumatic event, it can take months or years for the mind to “reboot” and snap out of shock.

Following the death of her husband in February 2015, Lori Bueber was thinking about downsizing. When the May 10 tornado leveled her home, the decision was made, but not in the way she was envisioning.

The 23-year resident of Delmont was left with nothing except her health - though even that, for a while, was in question.

As she was walking in her front door, returning home from church services, Bueber heard her weather radio alerting her of the approaching tornado. So, Bueber changed out of her church clothes, fielded a phone call from her stepdaughter urging her to retreat to the basement and began down the steps.

“I got four steps down and all of a sudden, I’m (blown) under the steps. My house, I looked up, and it was all gone,” Bueber said. “We laughed because my (late) husband’s daughter said later, ‘He pushed you under the steps,’ and I’m sure he did,” Bueber said. “He was probably saying ‘What are you just standing there for?’ Where I ended up in that basement saved my life.”

At the time, Bueber was covered from the shoulders down in debris, unable to free herself.

“I was going to try wiggling out, but I couldn’t see behind me, so I didn’t know if there was something that was big behind me that could fall on me,” Bueber said. “So I just hollered.”

She remained trapped for about five minutes, with a handful of people who walked past unable to hear or see her. Finally, two high school-aged boys heard her yelling for help, but they, too, couldn’t figure out where Bueber was buried. Eventually, the pair found Bueber and dug her out. It was then that she was hit with the force and intensity of the extent of the damage.

She was taken to the hospital in Armour, where she was treated for minor cuts and bruises, and released approximately two hours later.

“I got out on the street and I looked around and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t have anything left,’ ” Bueber said. “If people wouldn’t have come and helped me, I think I would have bawled and turned around and left because it was so overwhelming.”

But Bueber had all of the help she needed, with a dozen of her extended family members present to help in the cleanup process, and she never left Delmont. Instead, she temporarily rented a home until her house, through the Governor’s House program, arrived on Dec. 21. The Governor’s House program was created in 1996 to provide reasonably sized, affordable homes to income-qualified individuals and families in South Dakota.

Her new home is smaller than the last - downsized more in line with how Bueber was originally imagining.

Delmont Mayor Mae Gunnare has said 44 houses were destroyed in the storm, and many families elected not to rebuild, instead leaving town. The ones who did stay are still dealing with the emotional damage.

A celebration of the one-year anniversary of the tornado is scheduled for Tuesday.

___

Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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