Gympie man Andrew McLellan had a close encounter with a tornado in Oklahoma this week.
Gympie man Andrew McLellan had a close encounter with a tornado in Oklahoma this week. Paul Hellstern

Gympie man survives Oklahoma tornado

A DECISION to shelter a friend's new car from a storm could be the reason Gympie man Andrew McLellan survived Oklahoma's devastating tornado on Monday.

The 40-year-old Gympie father-of-two had a very near miss as the tornado hit part of Oklahoma City, claiming at least 24 lives, after he accompanied his friend to move their week-old car out of the path of what they thought was just a storm.

Mr McLellan's wife Kylie, who was still breathing a sigh of relief yesterday, recounted the story of her husband's close escape from the terror that sounded like "five Qantas jets" all starting up at once.

Mr McLellan had managed to call his wife early yesterday morning to tell her "I'm alive" and "I'm safe".

The pair spoke 30 minutes after Mrs McLellan first saw images of the unravelling tragedy on the news.

She said her husband told her how he watched the weather turn sour while eating with three Australian friends at a restaurant in the Oklahoma suburb of Moore.

She said the four men were "casual" as they watched the dark storm cell roll towards them.

While the four didn't think too much of the approaching storm, Mrs McLellan said one friend decided to move his week-old car to shelter as a precaution.

The decision for the group to travel together and shelter the car could be called a life-saver, as the restaurant they had not long departed was wiped out by the tornado.

She said the Aussie lads remained blase` and unaware of the nearing danger while Oklahoma locals rushed to evacuate.

She said the group, having never experienced a tornado before, thought people were over-reacting.

"They were casual about it," Mrs McLellan said of her husband and his friends. However what the group of Australians didn't know was the storm front they could see was actually a tornado.

She said it wasn't until the rough weather passed that they could see the twisting shape of the wind cell that most people picture when they think of a tornado.

Mrs McLellan said her husband reported some four tornados touching down in Oklahoma that week, but all were about 5km away from where he was staying.

This time the devastation hit right where he was staying in the suburb of Moore, however the unit Mr McLellan was staying in was untouched.

She said he described the event as terrifying and as noisy as it would be standing behind five running jets, saying while he had experienced some severe storms in his life, this was the "scariest".

"He's really shaken up by the whole experience," Mrs McLellan said.

She said the "blokey" decision to take care of a car could have been the decision that saved her husband's life.