“Call me or text me when you get home please,” I asked my mother who is headed home during a break in the storms that plowed through our area only a short time ago. The clouds had turned slightly more friendly, and the large hail was no longer dimpling my vehicle and fascinating my children. The wind thrown its tantrum and had seemed to calm down too. The rain was no longer sweeping in sideways. No, the weather looked almost promising to be nice. Looks can be quite deceiving.
The local television stations were doing what they do best and monitoring our weather continuously. Nothing else was on tv, and due to their severe weather predictions, I kept the tv on. I cooked dinner insanely early in case we lost power. This was a good call, because the evening was quite eventful. Justin tore through the door early. He looked like a man on a mission to protect his family. It was reassuring as the sky was looking ominous.
It was only fifteen minutes later that our tornado siren went off. The next hour was filled with us going in and out of our safe place, also known as our laundry room. Then we lost our television lost the news feeds. We resorted to the world’s best weather radio. There was no scouring for batteries, because it’s solar-powered and hand crank. NOA weather and local radio, a flashlight, and a cell phone charging hookup, and we were thankful to have it all. That weather radio was our only source of information.
During a break in the warnings, we let Braden relax in our bedroom and he fell asleep. Genevieve played with her toys in the living room. Of course, Justin and I checked out the windows. It looked gray and nasty out. Our pond and street had already flooded and then receded. After a few moments of looking, Justin went to get some more pillows and blankets for our safe place. At that time I asked him, “Is that a bird?” We both took a step closer to the windows. “No, definitely not a bird. That’s….debris,” and we both ran. I scooped up a sleeping and then scared Braden, and Justin picked up a not so happy to be taken away from her toys Eve.
Seconds later our local weather man states, “East Limestone area, you need to be in your safe place. A confirmed tornado on the ground is in your area. Signs of a tornado approaching will be lights browning out and cutting off….” I am not sure I heard anything after that, because the lights brown out and then went out completely. I looked at Braden who was very scared, grabbed Justin’s knee, wished Eve would stop crying so I could hear, and hoped that in the next few minutes that we would be safe.
We knew the storm was close. We could hear it. Hail began raining down on us again, and everything was so loud. The lightening shook our walls. I could feel it as I leaned against them. I think I was holding my breath. Miraculously, our home was spared. The threat ended around bedtime, and we were all too happy to go to bed and put an end to the long day. We had no idea that so much devastation surrounded us.
The next morning we had power but no water. Justin left for work as usual, but within minutes my phone rang. “Honey! Oh my God! It’s really really bad. The lines…” and then he was gone. Our cell phone reception was awful from that moment forward. Justin went to get gas, knowing that it will be hard to find soon. He also picked up milk. My mother showed up a short while later in near tears. What had happened?
We drove around within a few miles of our house. It only took a moment to realize just how close the storm had come. Homes leveled, people standing outside of them just staring. My heart became heavy. All of their worldly possessions gone, but they had their lives. Yet, it was so heart wrenching to see the mangled homes. Power lines were all over the road, and some still are. Poles were bent, snapped, and scattered. Trees were everywhere splintered, fall, and uprooted. The devastation was incredible and wide-spread.
Our local radio station never stopped giving us information or taking calls. It gave us places that were open, where to get gas, road closures, statements from local officials. We were under a curfew. There was no internet or cable at our home, and we were one of the few people who had power. We did lose water for three hours, and were one of the few who had water as well. We were very fortunate.
We picked up the foods from my parents’ house and loaded up the freezer. How long was this to last? All of the lines going out of our power plant were torn down by the EF4 tornado that plowed through our area. It was 190 mph, and that’s only 10 mph under the deadliest EF5. Not far from here (about 40 miles) an EF5 did rip through. Our landscape is now completely different, and we feel sadness as homes are still in crumpled messes.
Seeing as we couldn’t get out and help our neighbors, we did the next best thing. We did laundry for those who lost their homes. We did four large 40 gallon bags of laundry. We watched our former neighbor’s three children that she showed up with on our doorstep with in complete devastation as she couldn’t find her father in-law. She did find him at the hospital on a ventilator and with organ failure. He was in his house when the tornado hit it directly.
Our community has rallied. People have called into radio stations offering their spare rooms up to those who have been displaced. Volunteers came out in droves. People gave blood, helped each other move trees, and sort through the rubble. Local restaurants have set up stations by devastated areas to give out free food to those who lost their homes and to volunteers. Fire departments have sharpened chain saws for free. Churches have served free hot meals. Donation centers are everywhere. I am proud to call this place my home. I am thankful to be surrounded by such amazing community.
It’s been a very eventful past few weeks, but things are getting back to normal now. I am thankful for that.