Fairdale man's tornado video tells haunting story

  • A screen shot of Clem Schultz's cellphone video shows the F4 twister just before it veers into his house in Fairdale.

    A screen shot of Clem Schultz's cellphone video shows the F4 twister just before it veers into his house in Fairdale. Courtesy of Clem Schultz

Updated 4/9/2016 7:14 PM

It's not just that Clem Schultz's video has gained international attention, his harrowing cellphone footage is remarkable on many levels.

Susan Sarkauskas wrote the story on tiny Fairdale, and how it's rebounding from the massive F4 tornado that leveled the town one year ago Saturday, April 9. Part of her coverage detailed how 85-year-old Schultz recorded the twister: six separate cells that merged into one and ripped the town apart.


The video alone -- which verifies everything you've heard about the ferocity of tornadoes -- was compelling. But the back story was even more amazing. And tragic. While Schultz filmed, thinking his wife Geri was safer downstairs, the twister took an abrupt, last-minute turn and leveled the Schultzes' house; Geri was pinned under the rubble and died. Clem and their dog Missy survived.

Schultz had no time to shepherd his family to safely; their cellar, as Sarkauskas reported, barely had room for the furnace. I was reminded of a 2004 tornado that devastated downstate Utica. There, residents did what everyone acknowledged was the right thing: Many headed to the basement of one of the sturdiest buildings in town, the Millstone Tap. But the twister and its 205 mph winds zeroed in on the restaurant; eight people died in the wreckage.

So the lesson here appears to be: Tornadoes can do anything.

But let's be thankful Schultz had the courage to even look at his video, and then share it with a meteorology student who had been chasing the storm and now plans to show it an international atmospheric science convention in California. That rare level of detail might promote even more understanding of how tornadoes work. "I'm proud of it," Schultz says. "My video is saving lives."

We were the first media outlet to post the video. Needless to say, it got thousands of looks and shares via social media, one of our most viewed stories and videos of all time.

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Numerous news organizations have picked up our story as well: From TV networks to The Washington Post to the (London) Daily Mail. Sarkauskas appeared twice Saturday morning on The Weather Channel.

If you haven't seen the video, it's well worth one minute and 39 seconds of your time. Please see the linked story or go to dailyherald.com. Not only is the raw footage amazing, but our photo and video editors did an amazing job of weaving in Schultz's interview with before-and-after images of the Schultz house and the aftermath of the storm.

It ends with a photo of Geri Schultz, her name underneath and the inscription:

Jan. 21, 1948 -- April 9, 2015.

If that doesn't put a lump in your throat ...

Jim Davis can be reached at jdavis@dailyherald.com. Follow him at jimdavis06 on Facebook or dhjimdavis on Twitter.

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