We woke up at 4:30 AM to the NOAA weather radio’s alarm. The first wave hits our area. As per usual, we came through nerves frayed, but OK. The schools have closed their doors for the day.
The sun is shining now at 10:00 AM and the wind is picking up. The second wave is on its way and the Governor has declared a “State of Emergency” for the whole state of Alabama.
The alarm goes off again. It is 11:20, and although it is not on us I still feel the pit of my stomach tighten. The storm has really picked up speed and it is on Athens doorstep and the sky is darkening here in Hazel Green.
I watch the lines of the storms moving across the map on television, and think of the armies marching on Minas Tirith. It is overwhelming to me. I think I should turn off the television and just go clean house or sew on my quilt, but I don’t. The television’s constant conversations, and maps are my friend for the moment.
I eat another cookie.
I see my cat Claus run by the dining room window and he has something wriggling in his mouth. He heads for the park. Jumping up I go out, following his path to see what he’s captured. It is the baby Robin I had been photographing this very morning when the first wave had subsided. He appears to be fine and in spite of nearly having become a meal himself, he turns to me and opens his beak chirping for a meal! I take him back to the tree and try to imagine how to get him back up there! The ladder will take too long and his parents are dive bombing me while I stand there. Finally I run to the barn and grab the broom. I tell him, “Hold on baby, its a bumpy ride from here!”
I put him on the broom, lift him up to the closest branches and cheer him on… will he hop off the broom and onto the branch? He does! His parents swoop to the tree and continue to scold me. As I walk away I wonder if it was a futile attempt with the next storms on the way.
In the time it took me to write this the alarm has gone off two more times, the reporters are confirming tornadoes, and the siren is going off outside. That last cookie is doing somersaults in my stomach…
Bob calls and says he’s coming home. We hang up. The newsman is telling me that the wall cloud has produced a funnel cloud where Bob is. I call him back and he says he’s seeking shelter as we speak.
I am numb.
Our power is cutting in and out. I think I may go to my neighbors for shelter.
The phone rings, I answer it, the power goes out. I look out the window, the wind is pushing the rain horizontal, and it has become very dark.
Earlier in the day I had prepared myself a cubby in the pantry. I go there now and sit in the dark. When it gets quiet the weather radio comes back on and tells me the storm has moved on to somewhere else.
The only sound I hear is Bob’s battery backup beeping. It reminds me of the hospital. I crawl out of hiding and turn it off.
I call Bob and he is fine. I venture out to check the chickens, Polly and her babies, and find them unharmed.
So now I wait for the third wave. The newsman has warned us that the third squall line is going to be a wicked one. At this point I am scared spitless, and can’t even imagine worse that what we’ve already had but I take it seriously and prepare myself as best I can. Suddenly I feel very tired. I have no idea what it will be like, but I am emotionally spent. It is said that ignorance is bliss, but at this moment I would disagree. In spite of my terror I lay down on the couch to rest. The little dog whines and I let him get up to lie next to me. Laying there we are a comfort to each other… we fall asleep.
Buddy barks to signal that Bob is home. I feel such a sense of relief to not be facing this emergency without him. He goes out and starts the generator so that we can have the television news to help us understand the storm system that is terrifying us.
Between the hours of 3:30 and about 6:30 we would enter the pantry many times and pull the dog’s mattress up over us. We had no idea each time we went in to shelter ourselves if we would make it or not. We knew it was bad, we heard it on the news, and we would have no conception of the devastation all around us until the morning light.
This morning we know that all of North Alabama is without power. We are pretty sure that the worst devastation was produced by EF 4 (winds of 190 mph) and EF 5 (over 200 mph!) Tornadoes. It breaks my heart to see it; I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to live through it.
Today we run the generator in spells to keep the food from thawing and to get a bit of news at the same time. When not listening to news we are in the yard cleaning up the debris left from the horrible winds we got here.
I rake up tar paper, and a bit of wall board. It was part of someone’s home. It makes me cry.
I find a bit of white paper on the ground. I pick it up and the shape of it is eerily familiar… it was an envelope from a card, hand addressed to a family on Highway 194, in Russellville. I look up the address on my NUVI and find that it is 82 miles away from our home. Again I find myself tearing up. I wonder if they are OK. Did they make it through?
Perhaps you will not understand, but I am resolved that when the power is restored, the roads are cleared and the dusk to dawn curfew is lifted, that I will have to go find this family. I have to know that they made it. A tattered bit of their life has traveled by storm, fallen from the sky, and landed in my life. I feel a connection. I have to know…
It is beyond comprehension that nature can tear apart so many lives, take so many lives, leave some with nothing at all, and yet leave their neighbor unscathed. Yet, here we are. We are inconvenienced by a lack of electricity but can’t complain. We have so much to be grateful for and we praise God that we are here and our home was untouched.
And we pray for those who have experienced loss. I ask for your prayers for them too. It will take a long time to rebuild, and even longer to heal.
Addendum: 4/29/11 This posting of Wednesday’s event here in Alabama is being sent out from Tennessee as we still have no power and may not have till next week. A very few areas have regained some power, but most efforts for restoration are on hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations water pumping stations and some grocery stores. All these essentials are being brought up and online via generators.
Due to the severe circumstances many are shining and coming through for those in need in ways that are simply heroic. Yet, we got news this morning that in spite of the curfews there are malcontents who have begun looting. I do not understand the mentality of this kind person.
NOTE: If you are interested in seeing the magnitude and sheer force of the tornadoes that hit Alabama you may go to Youtube and simply type in “Alabama tornado April 27, 2011.” There are many who braved the situation to record them. They are awesome, powerful and frightening.