Photo from tornado-damaged home lands almost 210km away

When Katie Posten walked outside on Saturday morning to her car parked in her driveway, she saw something that looked like a note or receipt stuck to the windshield. She grabbed it and saw it was a black and white photo of a woman in a striped sundress and headscarf holding a little boy in her lap. On the back, written in cursive, it said, “Gertie Swatzell & J.D. Swatzell 1942." READ MORE: Over 100 feared dead after tornadoes tear through US states A few hours later, Ms Posten would discover that the photo had made quite a journey - almost 210 kilometres on the back of monstrous winds. Ms Posten had been tracking the tornadoes that hit the middle of the US Friday night, killing dozens of people. They came close to where she lives in New Albany, Indiana, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. So she figured it must be debris from someone's damaged home. “Seeing the date, I realised that was likely from a home hit by a tornado. How else is it going to be there?" Ms Posten ..

When Katie Posten walked outside on Saturday morning to her car parked in her driveway, she saw something that looked like a note or receipt stuck to the windshield.

She grabbed it and saw it was a black and white photo of a woman in a striped sundress and headscarf holding a little boy in her lap.

On the back, written in cursive, it said, “Gertie Swatzell & J.D. Swatzell 1942."

READ MORE: Over 100 feared dead after tornadoes tear through US states

Woman holding photo blown away in tornado

A few hours later, Ms Posten would discover that the photo had made quite a journey – almost 210 kilometres on the back of monstrous winds.

Ms Posten had been tracking the tornadoes that hit the middle of the US Friday night, killing dozens of people.

They came close to where she lives in New Albany, Indiana, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.

So she figured it must be debris from someone's damaged home.

“Seeing the date, I realised that was likely from a home hit by a tornado. How else is it going to be there?" Ms Posten said.

“It’s not a receipt. It’s well-kept photo."

So, doing what any 21st century person would do, she posted an image of the photo on Facebook and Twitter and asked for help in finding its owners.

She said she was hoping someone on social media would have a connection to the photo or share it with someone who had a connection.

Sure enough, that's what happened.

“A lot of people shared it on Facebook. Someone came across it who is friends with a man with the same last name, and they tagged him,” said Ms Posten, 30, who works for a tech company.

That man was Cole Swatzell, who commented that the photo belonged to family members in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, almost 210 kilometres away from New Albany, as the crow flies, and 269 kilometres away by car.

In Dawson Springs — a town of about 2700 people 97 kilometres east of Paducah — homes were levelled, trees were splintered and search and rescue teams continued to scour the community for any survivors.

Dozens of people across five states were killed.

The fact that the photo travelled almost 210 kilometres is “unusual but not that unusual,” said John Snow, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma.

In one documented case from the 1920s, paper debris travelled 370 kilometres from the Missouri Bootheel into southern Illinois.

The paper debris rides winds, sometimes reaching heights of 9100 to 12,100 metres above the ground, he said.

“It gets swirled up,” Professor Snow said.

“The storm dissipates and then everything flutters down to the ground.”

Homes and businesses are destroyed after a tornado ripped through Mayfield, Kentucky

Ms Posten plans to return the photo to the Swatzell family sometime this week.

“It’s really remarkable, definitely one of those things, given all that has happened, that makes you consider how valuable things are — memories, family heirlooms, and those kinds of things,” Ms Posten said.

“It shows you the power of social media for good. It was encouraging that immediately there were tons of replies from people, looking up ancestry records, and saying ‘I know someone who knows someone and I’d like to help.’”

READ MORE: Before and after photos show devastation of US tornado outbreak

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