Family Survives 'Wizard of Oz' Moment After Tornado Picks Up Home and Spins It 30 Feet Into Street


It’s a miracle that the Castellanos Burke family from Arabi, Louisiana, is alive after the terror they experienced Wednesday, but now they’re faced with a long road to recovery and having to quite literally pick up the pieces of their lives as they press forward.

On Tuesday evening, Dea Castellanos and her husband, Jimmy, were sitting on the living room couch, watching TV, when they heard a tornado warning alert.

Before they had time to react, the EF-3 tornado hit their one-story home, lifted it off its cinderblocks, twisted it through the air and sent it flying 30 feet into the middle of the street.

The couple’s daughter Maria Celeste, who has muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair and is on a ventilator, was in her room when the twister hit. While her parents were able to scramble from the remains of their home, Maria Celeste was trapped in the rubble.

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Neighbors heard Dea and Jimmy screaming for help as they tried to get to their daughter, who was suffering from internal bleeding and was crying for her mother.

“They were screaming,” Chuck Heirsch, a neighbor, told The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, according to the Associated Press.

“His wife was hysterical. They were already traumatized from taking that ‘Wizard of Oz’ ride.”

Heirsch called 911, and when firefighters arrived, they were able to free Maria Celeste and carry her out on a blanket. She was taken to the hospital, where she had surgery overnight but is now doing well, according to St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis.

Family and friends have helped sift through the destruction to find important belongings, but the devastation is great.

Thankfully, the family’s five dogs survived, but many of Dea’s chickens, doves and parakeets are displaced, missing or dead.

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“The family had no rental or disaster insurance,” a GoFundMe set up for the family reads. “They don’t know which of Maria’s medical equipment they can salvage or whether Maria’s special wheelchair will work again.

“Jimmy’s car with the wheelchair lift is wrecked. Several of their cell phones were smashed.”

While they’ll be rebuilding their lives for the foreseeable future, given the power of the natural disaster they survived, it’s a miracle they’re even alive.

As they go through this great trial, Dea shared words of wisdom with those who might come across their story: “Appreciate what you have today because tomorrow it might be gone.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking