Tornado hits south Charlotte daycare, owner saves children within minutes of impact

Updated: Feb. 8, 2020 at 2:55 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An EF-1 tornado ripped through the Settlers Landing neighborhood off of Pineville-Matthews Road on Thursday. Trees collapsed onto a daycare operating out of a house on Silversmith Lane with five children inside at the time.

The daycare owner says the children were minutes from being crushed by a tree.

“I was terrified,” daycare owner Sherri Wellman said. “I’m still shaking and overwhelmed.”

She says it was raining outside but they did not know what to expect.

“We were watching the news, we saw that the tornado apparently was going to hit Providence High School within three minutes and Providence High School is just right here," she said.

She knew they had to act quickly.

“I had two babies in my sunroom," she said. "I threw them in my son’s arms. Then I ran out to the playroom, my husband and I grabbed the others.”

She says less than three minutes later the roof collapsed right on top of the area where several babies had been sleeping.

“My husband was still on his way out of the room when the tree came down,” she said.

They huddled together in one of the only areas that didn't get hit.

“I was thanking God they were alive,” she said.

Wellman immediately texted the parents to let them know their children were alright but would need to be picked up.

Sara Wright, who works at nearby Elizabeth Lane Elementary School, hopped in her car and drove as quickly as she could to get her daughter Madelyn.

“It was probably the best thing I’ve ever felt in my life to hug on her again, and then to hug Sherri because her family, they saved our children," Wright said.

It’s an early birthday blessing.

“Tomorrow we’ll celebrate her being one which is a miracle that she’s here to do that,” she said.

Wellman says she’s looking for a rental to get her family and four dogs into until they can figure out next steps.

She credits her training for knowing the safest part of the house. She says as a certified daycare owner she is required to hold tornado drills.

Wellman’s family member set up a GoFundMe page to help them get back on their feet.

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