8 People Survive Tornado Inside Restaurant's Walk-In Cooler: 'We Are Grieving, But We Are Alive'

·3 min read

"I just hollered 'cooler!' And my husband opened the cooler door and started shoving us in," Tracy Harden said of riding out a storm at Chuck's Dairy Barn in Rolling Fork, Mississippi

ABC News/YouTube
ABC News/YouTube

Eight people survived a tornado that ripped through Mississippi last week by hiding in a walk-in refrigerator inside a local restaurant.

The twister — part of severe weather that killed more than 20 people when it moved through the area on Friday — came bearing down on Chuck's Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork just after 8 p.m., owner Tracy Harden told FOX Weather.

Tracy said she received messages from both her mother and sister warning her of a tornado shortly before an employee at the restaurant rushed to her with the same news, according to USA Today and Good Morning America.

Then, the lights flickered.

"I just hollered 'cooler!' And my husband opened the cooler door and started shoving us in," Tracy told GMA.

Related:Mississippi Couple Took Shelter in a Car Wash During Deadly Tornado: 'Everything was Flying'

Once inside, Tracy's husband "lost control of the door" as wind whipped around them and he tried to close it, per the report.

"Just before it shut, he looked up and he said, 'I see the sky,' so that let us know that this was way worse than anything we could have imagined," she told GMA. "And the roof was gone."

Barbara Pinkins, an employee at the restaurant, said she could hear the ceiling falling around them as they waited out the storm, per the report.

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When the storm subsided, a customer helped clear debris away from the cooler's door so those who sheltered inside could get out, USA Today and FOX Weather reported.

The refrigerator was the only part of the restaurant left standing after Friday's tornado.

"We stepped out to the back of the building … we stepped out through what would have been the back door, and our vehicles were totaled," Tracy told FOX Weather.

"But then when we looked up, we just saw what used to be two motel buildings and 35 or more trailer houses are all gone, and they were all flattened," she added.

Related:Storm Chaser Volunteers to Build House for Mississippi Family He Rescued: 'Kind of a Miracle'

Tracy and her husband have owned Chuck's Dairy Barn for 16 years, per the reports. She said many of the town's few thousand residents enjoyed meeting up there.

"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," Tracy told USA Today.

Now, she and others that were in the path of Friday's tornado are picking up the pieces.

"We are okay," she told GMA. "I feel like I've said that a million times, but we are hurting, we are grieving, but we are alive so we are okay."

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