CHARLOTTE — When Latonya Stevens heard thunder and lightning in the distance, she knew the drill. Every time a storm drew near, her children would run to her room seeking comfort.
So Ms. Stevens turned on a hall light for the youngsters as high winds began buffeting the house. Then she blacked out and awoke to find only one of the four children in sight and the house ripped apart.
She quickly assumed the worst: A twister had carried off the other three.
“I was screaming for them,” Ms. Stevens said Monday. “I was panicking. For a moment, I didn’t know where they were.”
No one knows precisely what happened, but this much is clear:
The three children were in their rooms when the tornado approached. As the winds rose, most of the house’s second floor was swept away. After the storm passed, the children were found outside on the ground.
All three emerged with only cuts and bruises — and a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
The children — Amber, 3, Ayanna, 4, and Jamal, 7 — said they don’t recall anything. When storms moved into the Charlotte area late Friday, the four children were upstairs.
Their grandmother Patricia Stevens was watching TV downstairs on a couch. Their father, Tyrone Stevens, was out with friends.
After one storm passed, Ms. Stevens heard a new storm approaching and got up to take care of the children. As she turned on the hall light, the house began to shake and the wind started to howl.
Then she lost consciousness.
Ms. Stevens awoke in the dark holding the other 3-year-old twin, Ashley, and shouting for her children. The roof was gone.
Only then did she realize that her house had been struck by a tornado.
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