69-year-old Baytown woman hunkered under mattress before tornado destroyed her home

The 69-year-old woman survived without a scratch or bruise.

Weaver Street in Baytown has devastation in nearly every direction and power remained out Wednesday night after Tuesday’s powerful tornado tore apart homes and structures.

A pile of rubble is all that’s left of Donna Swope’s home. Her roof is gone, the windows are shattered, and the bedroom is blown to pieces.

“It was something I never want to go through again,” Swope, 69, said by phone Wednesday.

She hunkered under a mattress after she saw on KPRC 2′s continuous coverage that a large, dangerous tornado was barreling toward her.

“Had I not gotten up from that chair when I did, had I waited one minute, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

She hit the floor as quickly as she could with the mattress not even fully covering her.

“I felt the house rising, being lifted,” she said. “You don’t have time to be scared or really think.”

The twister picked up her home and moved it several feet, disconnecting the front steps from the front door.

Debris blocked her from getting out through the front or back door, so she called 911 and fire crews came to rescue her.

Her son and daughter-in-law eventually made their way to her property from the back, where they found her sitting on the back porch.

“She’s safe in our house and unscratched and that’s all that matters, she’s safe,” her son, Shane Swope said. “It’s devastating ... we go around and we’re finding pictures of stuff from our childhood.”

Donna, unscratched and unbruised, withstood the winds, as did other keepsakes her family found Wednesday, like her framed marriage license and a vintage radio.

Neighbors on her street went uninjured as well but will have long days of cleanup ahead. Volunteers were in the area helping them get started Wednesday.

“We’ve had our share of disasters in the past, even with Harvey, but they come together regardless of backgrounds,” Baytown City Council member Laura Alvarado said. “It’s not going to stop until we make sure that every family on here is ok.”

The sun now sets on Donna’s chapter in this home, built in the 1940s, but the sight of what’s left leaves her grateful.

“It’s a big loss, but I got away with my life, so that says a lot,” she said.

Texans impacted by storm damage at their home or business are urged to fill out this online damage form, Governor Greg Abbott’s office said Wednesday.

“The State of Texas is working around the clock to ensure those affected by winter weather and severe storms have the support they need to recover,” Abbott said in a statement. “I urge all impacted Texans to self-report sustained damage information to iSTAT. This is a critical tool for our local and state officials to determine eligibility for federal assistance, identify damage in regions impacted by severe weather and direct volunteer resources to communities in need.”


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