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Husband of 11Alive meteorologist survives tornado

6:55 AM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- "He was one of the speakers. I was attending."

11Alive Meteorologist Allison Chinchar grins, clutching her husband's hand on their couch inside their Atlanta condo. She laughs at their improbable and cliched meeting at, of all things, a weather conference.

"I liked the weather nerdiness about him," she says and laughs. 

The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes looks at his newlywed wife and says, "For me it was love at first sight, honestly. I couldn't be without her."

Nine months ago, the two were married. Both love weather. Both chase weather.

Allison says, "He knows when I got out and go chasing weather, he gets nervous. And vice versa."

"When she was in Hurricane Isaac last summer, I was nervous," Bettes admits.

But Friday night in El Reno, Okla., Bettes, an experienced chaser, could not escape the tornado.

The SUV he was a passenger in was the middle vehicle of three from The Weather Channel. He said he knew they were in trouble when he saw the lead vehicle get pulled off the road toward a ditch.

"We just screamed to each other to duck and get down and the next thing you know we're air born, we're tumbling, it seemed like it went on forever," he says.

Their SUV was thrown some 200 yards. 

"We had a camera rolling inside the vehicle and it never turned off and it got thrown out a window and just so happens it's laying in a field and it perfectly frames our truck tumble, tumble, tumble, and when I watch it now it's like I'm watching my own death," he says. "I definitely feel like I've cheated death."

Members of Bettes' team in a lead vehicle said his SUV was 30 feet up in the air.

"There was a moment where I remember the tumbling had stopped and I felt this weightlessness and at that moment time stopped for me. I thought how high are we, am I going to heaven, how hard is it going to be when we land, are we ever going to land? I think that's the moment everything really slowed down for me and the only thing I remember is her face, like a flash," he says.

Bettes survived the landing -- survived to see his bride again. 

With tears in her eyes, Allison says, "I'm happy he's home." 

Bettes smiles at Allison. "It's good to be home," he says, his voice cracking with emotion.

But the video is too much for Allison to watch.

"It's tough because it's watching someone you know be in a car accident," she explains.

Mike says the incident has changed him.

"I think moments like that change you, gives you perspective on important things in your life. I think that's probably why her face was in my mind because maybe there was someone telling me, hey, this is your life. There's more to live for," he says.

They are a brand new family of two. And they know how lucky they are to be intact. So the question of whether Mike will chase tornadoes again is unanswered.

"She's very supportive. I know it scared us both quite a bit. Probably deep down she doesn't want me to go again but maybe there are more important things in my life than chasing tornadoes." Bettes turns and looks at Allison. "It's right here."

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