Nebraska brothers say they ‘took off a couple of times’ after being sucked up by 136mph tornado

As the 136mph tornado ripped through their home, the brothers thought they would never see each other again

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 30 April 2024 17:17 BST
Royce and Roger Slatten were thrown into the air when tornado hit Elkhorn, Nebraska

Two brothers say they “took off” a couple of times as a tornado tore their home apart in Nebraska while they searched for their dog, which was later found alive under the rubble.

Roger Slatten was on his way to work on Friday afternoon when he got a call to say a tornado had been spotted near his home in Elkhorn and he should get to safety.

Racing home, he called his brother Royce and told him to grab their dogs and get into the basement to shelter.

He told CNN that the moment he got home, they looked out the window and saw winds of up to 136mph rush into town.

While one dog was nearby, they couldn’t see little Yorkiepoo, Nico, and headed upstairs to try to find him. That was the moment the tornado hit their house.

“We could feel the floor separate from the foundation. As soon as the wind got under it, it just vaporised the upper end of the house,” Roger told CNN, explaining how the windows all exploded.

Royce and Roger Slatten’s home was completely destroyed as a tornado swept through Elkhorn, Nebraska
Royce and Roger Slatten’s home was completely destroyed as a tornado swept through Elkhorn, Nebraska (CNN)

“We just took off. The moment before we took off, we were both trying to head down the stairs and we both looked at each other,” he continued. “For a long while, I was certain that was the last time I was going to see my brother.”

Roger said that he remembers cartwheeling in the air, while his brother was thrown out of the house.

“I remember being ripped out towards the back after the house was lifted. I remember hitting the ground and coming to afterwards and just feeling like the whole house is ripping into my back,” Royce said.

He told CNN that he could not understand how he didn’t fly away with their house. When he managed to get up after the storm had passed, he started screaming his brother’s name.

Roger had been pinned down by rubble from the destroyed home, which he says protected him from getting “sliced up” by any flying glass. He eventually pulled an arm free and called 911.

A neighbour eventually helped point Roger in the direction of his brother, who was sitting at another house.

Both dogs were safe, with little Nico having been found by paramedics.

“They’d dug him out of the rubble in the basement,” Roger explained. They could hear him barking.”

People dig through the rubble in Elkhorn following the tornado on Thursday 25 April 2024
People dig through the rubble in Elkhorn following the tornado on Thursday 25 April 2024 (AP)

While Royce had been away with the National Guard last year, Roger said he “was more relieved to see him after being separated for 20 minutes than the almost year he was gone”.

The tornado in Elkhorn was one of dozens to hit the Plains from Thursday through to Sunday, leaving at least four dead, including a child. Multiple towns saw homes and businesses destroyed, while infrastructure was also damaged.

The Slatten brothers were left with multiple cuts and bruises, with Royce needing 22 stitches and Roger having a puncture wound from a nail in his back.

Drone captures devastating tornado aftermath in Nebraska
Drone captures devastating tornado aftermath in Nebraska (AP)

Their home was destroyed and most of their belongings are gone, along with other homes in their neighbourhood.

“A lot of people have asked if it’s the scariest thing or the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but honestly, the good has somehow outweighed the bad,” Roger added.

“It just feels so unbelievable, it feels written… You know, I’m alive and we’re all healthy, it could have been so much worse and we’re here, so I’m just so grateful for the support and so grateful for the people around us.”

The Plains have continued to see storms since Thursday, with some still expected across northwestern Iowa through to northwestern Kansas today, bringing strong winds and hail, the National Weather Service has said.

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