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Surviving a front row seat in Cape tornado

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

A casual Saturday evening drive over to friends, turned out to be a wild and unfortunate experience for Minnesota natives George and Laura Bruestle.

The Bruestles, who live on Bayshore Drive in Cape Coral, were making a trip to a friend’s house across town where they ended up having a front row seat of the EF-2 tornado which devastated a portion of the southwest Cape Saturday night.

“It was raining, which wasn’t a big deal, but then when we turned north off of Cape Coral Parkway onto Sands, it just let loose,” George Bruestle said.

“There were just sheets of rain hitting us, then the pounding started,” Laura Bruestle added.

That pounding on the Bruestles’ SUV vehicle was flying debris caused from the tornado, which had winds reaching up to 132 miles per hour.

The inclination to the Bruestles that this was not a normal Florida downpour was the outdoor furniture which was flying past their windshield.

“Then a garbage can flew by and then all of a sudden, we just started getting pelted about a hundred times, it sounded like mortars were hitting us,” George said.

The windows of the SUV started getting blown out, as roofing tiles from nearby houses acted like bullets, with the back window exploding behind the stunned Bruestles.

“Right before we started getting pounded, my ears popped and that’s when I knew we needed to stop,” Laura said. “We never heard the usual locomotive sound which comes with tornados, just because I think we were in kind of shock.”

With their vehicle stopped on Sands, just about three quarters away from Beach Avenue, the 132 mph gusts started moving the SUV.

“It turned us sideways, I don’t know if it picked us up or not, but all I know is we ended up sideways on the median,” George said.

Roof tiles shattered a front headlight, busted the two backseat windows and the back window. Fortunately, none flew through the driver or passenger windows, which were missed by inches according to the dents just under each window.

“Luckily, it pelted under our windows and there wasn’t a part of the car which had not been hit,” George said. “We saw the debris spinning, so I think we were right in the tornado.”

When all the commotion was done, the pair promptly turned around and drove back home, where they were able to unwind after the dangerous ordeal.

Their truck, which just had a new paint job in Minnesota before the two drove down to Florida, will be brought back and repaired.

“This was our Florida car, but we’ll be able to bring it back and get it fixed,” said George, who is the CEO of Ben Franklin Electric, Inc., based out of Burnsville, Minn.

George isn’t new to being involved in dangerous situations, either. He had to emergency land his private airplane twice – once in Chattanooga, Tenn., and another in Illinois – while Laura suffered a broken back in 2006 after a huge wave from a passing yacht threw her up in the boat about four feet, before landing with bone-crushing results.

But even two emergency airplane landings doesn’t compare sitting through the heart of a tornado.

“We don’t want to go through that again,” George said.