ANDOVER, Kan. (KSNW) — Stephanie Fisk McCurdy was nine years old in 1991. On April 26 of that year, her family was moving into a new home in Andover. Stephanie remembers being upset about the move.
“I was sad we were moving. I was crying.”
Less than a mile away, as Stephanie’s family was unpacking and moving in to the new house, Duke Evans was making a golf training video at Terradyne Country Club. He had just finished a long day and was in the shower when someone started yelling at him.
“A woman was saying, ‘There’s a huge tornado coming down here. Jump into your clothes and get downstairs.’”
His girlfriend Mary Lee was also at the golf course. She remembers how quickly the weather changed.
“It was getting darker and blacker,” she said. “Everyone was saying you better run inside, so I went inside.”
But Duke, who has a background in meteorology, decided to grab the camera he was using for the training video and take a position on the steps of the clubhouse.
“I was up high enough that I could see clear over Kellogg where it was coming,” he said.
As Duke started rolling, Stephanie’s family was on the second flood of their new home. Stephanie remembers the sound roaring outside.
“You can feel it in your chest,” she said. “It’s just chest pressure because you know what’s going on.”
The moment is captured on Duke’s iconic video. Stephanie’s house is clearly seen as the massive tornado, almost a half-mile wide, races by. Duke never stopped rolling despite the terrifying reality playing out in front of the lens. He says he knew he was in a safe location.
“It looks like it was coming right at you, but it was drifting east,” he said.
Duke was also aware that he was documenting history.
“I was locked in on the camera because I knew with the high definition, that it would be good for the weather department.”
Thirty years later, Duke’s video is still regarded as some of the most important footage ever captured of an F5 tornado.
It remains a constant reminder for Stephanie just how lucky her family was on that day.
“I watch the video every April 26, 1991. It makes you emotional,” she said. “You can see in the video, things flying around. You can’t even imagine what people really lost in all of that.”
There is a happy ending to the story for Duke and Mary Lee. A few days after the tornado, Duke called his then-girlfriend Mary Lee and asked her hand in marriage. She told him she needed to think about it but later decided Duke was the right guy. They have been married ever since.