THURMAN, IOWA — On Saturday, April 14 at about 5:45 p.m., Penner International driver Klaus Burkert was on a regular run to Texas from his home in Steinbach MB., when a tornado blew in from the west. It hoisted Burkert’s 2009 Volvo 780 into the air, dropped the tractor-trailer on its side and blew the 80,000 lbs of steel, glass, rubber and iron across the interstate until it came to rest on the grassy median.
Burkert, who had pulled over to the shoulder because of the driving rain, walked away from the wreck unscathed.
And that, according to Iowa State Trooper Seargent Dave Rosenberg who was on duty that afternoon, makes Burkert luckier than several of his colleagues. In all, the tornado knocked over seven tractor trailers along that short stretch of I-29 and some of the drivers wound up in the hospital.
There had been tornado warnings in the neighborhood that weekend, Sgt. Rosenberg says, but in southern Iowa, twisters are common and very seldom worrisome enough to cause a trucker to change a schedule.
So there was no predicting the emergency.
However, seconds before the tornado struck, Burkert pulled to the shoulder and noticed that the driver in front of him did the same.
“The windshield wipers simply didn’t do any good any more so we couldn’t see,” he said.
Parked, the truck started shaking as if in an earthquake and then the rainstorm turned brown, so the cab grew completely dark.
“I was holding the steering wheel like a baby grabbing a bottle. The wind was sucking the windshield wipers up from the glass so they were standing straight up.”
“Hail and stones were hammering on the windshield and I thought if that windshield breaks, I would be screwed. Next thing I remember is that the truck started lifting and slowly lifted up and then there was a big bang.
“It threw me on to the left side and then I felt the wind push me across the road. Thank God I was heavy or else I’d have blown further and thank God I was wearing my seatbelt.”
As soon as his truck stopped scraping along the pavement, Burkert climbed out (wearing just a t-shirt, jeans and sandals) and saw trucks strewn along the highway.
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