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.
10 thoughts on “An Event to be Reckoned With: severe weather”
I understand completely. Before I finished reading the end of your sentence, I was thinking that I would want to find the people named on the envelope, to be sure they were safe.
I am so glad you and all your critters are safe. I was so happy to hear your voice yesterday morning! 😀
It was a happy mistake to find you on the other end of the line.
My first trip into Fayetteville my phone rang and it was “Grandma” Susan from Pomona, CA. She had heard the news about Alabama and called to see if we were OK. I haven’t heard from her for a long while, and it was a treat to hear from her now! I knew her from teaching there in CA and was close to her and her Grandgirls. She and her older daughter were raising all her grandchildren together. Three of the girls were students I taught while at Roosevelt School in the Pomona Unified School District.
my family are from Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. I have so many friends there. We are blessed that all are alright. There was some damage to one home and a limb on a car but people are good. We feel like we should go check just to hold them tight. We will wait until later because the area doesn’t need “lookers”.. Glad you are safe.
Thank you Margaret,
I am so relieved to know that your family and friends are well and safe. Yes, you are correct in that it would be a nightmare to be here right now. I do not know what information is getting out there, but it is just a tragedy to see all the displaced, the damage to property, and to hear the death tolls rise. The healing will take a long time, but God is with us and is a comfort to us all. This is the Bible Belt, and we are strong in faith here! Love you!
Wow! Wow! Wow! Im so happy you and yours are safe Lynda !! Amazing story , and VERY well written.. you had me on the edge of my seat . On a happier note , I have used the same broomstick method to save a baby bird that become stuck in kitchen while learning to fly.
Rich, I wrote it as I was going through it. Journaling if you will. The moment to moment events were recorded here and then sent when I had access to the internet. Somehow, recording it all helped to keep me from totally succumbing to the terror. Now that the storm is over and the news of what went on during that time is being shared via the television, I realize now, that no matter how scary it looked, sounded, and felt, well, we were not in any danger here in our little woods. But when the sirens go off in your area and the weatherman keeps calling out your town in the path and giving minutes to impact, well… But then again, so many have suffered loss and it makes us realize that where we live we could very well be next. And so it is that we have resolved to get a storm shelter here on the Farmlet, because it would be folly to assume that it can’t happen here. Besides, when not saving us from certain death and destruction, it can be put to service as a root cellar! ;D
(Finding my sense of humor again)
I’m so glad that you are safe. Your empathy is moving and your disgust at the looters completely understandable. It is people like you that will rebuild the state, who will come together to bond in a way that will heal many wounds. It is the looters that will continue to suffer, will never find comfort.
Your writing is always good, Lynda, but this narrative is exceptional. The clarity through sustained heightened tension is carried so well, so naturally. I know that is not what you are concerned with right now, but I wanted you to know.
Take care of yourself and yours – however broad that definition might be to you.
We were able to get out a bit yesterday and have found that less than a quarter mile down the road there are massive trees that were literally blown over in the storm. Some onto homes, but I think that from the look of it that no one was seriously injured. Nonetheless, it is scary to see. We tried to take a different path to Fayetteville to avoid the literally miles long traffic of people from all over trying to buy gasoline. We ended up seeing the lesser damage of a smaller tornado which passed by us to the north-west on the state line. That is only about 4 miles away. In tornado miles that is like being on your doorstep!
Weirdly, we passed one home that was fine, but on the power lines in front of their home there were several pieces of 15 foot metal siding that were bent in two and hanging from the wires!
I thought to take photos along the route, but in the end I could not. It felt like the exact equivalent of voyeurism. Perhaps I am too sensitive, but then again, maybe not?
Please know that when I say “lesser tornado” I do not mean to negate the damage that those in the path of the beast suffered, nor the feelings of terror they felt when going through it. NO WAY! But they were fortunate in that the damage was not total devastation. Roofs, siding, broken or fallen trees, all can be cleaned up and repaired.
Thank you for your words of comfort and caring. They are appreciated.
Lynda, I’m so glad you made it through. We are alright and don’t have any damage. We were very lucky, two streets over many people lost their homes. Several of our friends lost everything and the church I work for was badly damaged. Now we wait for the power to come back on…
Oh thank goodness you are OK! I was worried! I am so sorry for all who have suffered loss of family and property. I was just crazy even if you were not in the direct path… the wind, water, lightning and thunder were so scary. Now as you said, we too are waiting for the power to come back. Just across the pasture, and also across Limestone there is power. I guess it is following the highway.
Hugs to you and yours,