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Man reflects on surviving Andover tornado by sheltering under pickup

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 11:19 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Thirty years ago Monday, April 26, Joe Parsley was in front of the F5 tornado that devastated the Andover community. The storm killed 17 people. Joe Parsley survived by taking shelter under his pickup truck. Decades later, the now 91-year-old reflects on the storm, how he made it through the night of April 26, 1991 and how his life has changed.

These days, Parsley finds the Kansas wind peaceful and he spends a lot of time outside working in his yard. Thirty years ago Monday night, his home and much of what he owned were swept away when the F5 tornado tore through Andover. Parsley remembers that night well.

“The atmosphere was so heavy. It was just the pressure was really, really heavy, you know?” he said.

While trying to take shelter from the Andover tornado, Parsley ended up being at the last place he’d hoped, facing the storm directly.

“I go outside and I see that big tornado. It looked like it was on top of me directly,” he said.

Parsley took shelter under his pickup to avoid any debris that would get caught in the wind. He doesn’t remember how long he was under his truck, but he said it felt like ages. The only thing on his mind was his family.

“My thought was there’s no way anyone or anything would survive this sucker, so I thought it was doomsday for me,” he said. “All I did was pray. At a time like that, you won’t believe how hard you can pray,” he said.

Parsley said he believes in a higher power.

“And I think that higher power was looking out for me that night,” he said.

Being pinned under debris until help arrived, Parsley was severely injured and unrecognizable. His oldest daughter was one of the first family members to see him.

“Se saw the rings that I had on and that was the only way of identification because, you know, I had all of this stuff packed on to my face,” Parsley said.

After months in the hospital recovering from his injuries, Parsley was the second resident to move back into his mobile home community. His one condition was that his new home have a storm shelter put in. Parsley said he’s used the shelter in the 30 years since the Andover tornado, but nothing has come close to the experience that day. He said that experience helped to change his outlook on life.

“I’m thankful to be able to do what I have been able to do, even after the tornado. So that has made a big impression on me,” he said.

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