As tornadoes descended on Mississippi Friday night, owners and employees at a Rolling Fork diner survived severe winds by sheltering together in the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. The rest of the restaurant was completely destroyed, photos show.
The group of eight people huddled inside the walk-in cooler at Chuck’s Dairy Bar could feel powerful winds pushing the refrigerator along the ground, owner Tracy Harden told USA TODAY. Harden, 48, answered a phone number listed online for the diner Saturday.
Her husband Tim, employees and a few customers knew the storm was coming Friday night, Harden said, and were trying to seek shelter at the diner.
“All of a sudden the lights flickered and somebody hollered, ‘Cooler!’” and everyone rushed inside while her husband fought against the wind to close the refrigerator door, Harden said.
“Before the door closed, he could see the sky,” she said. “It hit that fast.”
“Just as he got it closed, he said, ‘The roof is gone,'” Harden said.
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A customer who made it through the storm cleared debris away from the refrigerator door so that Harden and her seven companions could get out after the tornado had passed.
Everyone who had been inside was OK, Harden said.
More about Chuck’s Dairy Bar
Harden and her husband bought the decades-old diner 16 years ago, and it was a hub for the Rolling Fork community, she said. By Saturday morning, the beloved gathering spot had been completely destroyed and the only things left standing were the refrigerator and a bathroom, where one more person hid to survive the tornado.
“I care so much for my town, and our business is the place to go, not just to eat, but to be loved on and be comforted during anything,” she said.
Nighttime tornadoes can be especially deadly
Nighttime tornadoes are twice as likely to be deadly as daytime tornadoes, scientists report. A 2008 study published by Northern Illinois University professors Walker Ashley and Andrew Krmenec found that nighttime tornadoes made up only 27% of all tornadoes from 1950 to 2005, but were responsible for 39% of all tornado deaths.
Contributing: Doyle Rice