TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBMA) — Jennifer Patterson was sitting inside her manufactured home Wednesday afternoon when she saw the tornado on her television screen crossing into Tuscaloosa County. Minutes later she would come face-to-face with the tornado, surviving thanks to a tree and a split-second decision.
“I watched James Spann and when he said it’s coming into Moundville and if you’re in that polygon he said…be ready,” Patterson recalled, “I picked my purse up come to this car and that’s where everything changed. My plans changed.”
Patterson couldn’t find her keys. She was running out of time. So she decided to run for a clump of trees and bushes downhill from her house. Patterson’s son, Jake Utley called his mother and stayed on the phone as the tornado bore down on her.
“You could hear everything. The wind, the tree’s falling, at one point I couldn’t hear her screaming anymore. It was (just) the wind. I didn’t know if she was gone.”
Patterson survived by holding onto a tree as the tornado leveled the trail less than 50 yards away.
“I just knew at any moment it was gonna suck me out of there but it didn’t,” she said. “I held on to that little old tree. I held onto it with everything I had.”