Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alabama Tornadoes

I'm sure you have all heard by now of the destruction caused by the tornadoes in Alabama on April 27. 

I woke up around 6am because the wind and rain were blowing so hard my windows were shaking. It was really dim, and when I looked out my dining room window the trees were getting tossed around so much that I felt nauseous. It was similar to feeling sea sick. But the alarms were not going off at this point, so I said a little prayer and went back to sleep.

Sirens did start going off though, and for most of the day. Heavy rain would come and go. We didn't take it too seriously at first, an occasional tornado is no big deal this time of year. But our power flickered out around noon, and when I looked outside I saw a big limb had fallen down across our driveway and one of our cars (which only got a few scratches). At that point I made everyone get into the bathroom (since it is centrally located in the house, and there are no windows). 

Footage of a tornado in Tuscaloosa.

It was hot, boring, and nerve-wracking. It was a lot of waiting, and I spent most of the day pacing and feeling sick. I felt better towards the end of the day because the sirens weren't sounding, until I found out through my sisters cell phone radio that the sirens had stopped working

The next day we started discussing leaving town since all the power was out in Huntsville, and it was estimated to take at least 4 days to get it back. Water was also slightly limited. Not to mention I live with my mother, nephew who isn't even two yet, and my two younger sisters - and we were all on our periods. If we had stayed we probably would have killed each other. We decided to go to Kentucky to stay with our closest relatives. We got my older sister and her husband to watch our dog, and a neighbor with a generator to feed our 4 cats.

We had to drive all the way to Fayetteville to get gas. We only had an eighth of a tank and I was so worried we would run out of gas before we got to a working gas station. The traffic was absolutely horrible. On the way there we passed through Ardmore, which lies right on the state line of Tennessee and Alabama. It was so weird - the Tennessee side of the street had power, and the Alabama side didn't. But we made it to a gas station where the line wasn't too bad and they were limiting 10 gallons per customer.  

I got a chance to see the damage as we were driving. I mostly saw limbs and some trees down. Some had even fallen on houses, but they didn't look too bad. There wasn't too much damage until we got to Anderson Hill, a nice gated neighborhood, on our way out of Huntsville. Police had blocked off entry to the neighborhood, but that didn't stop people from sightseeing. Some of the houses had gotten really torn up, and were missing roofs - while others were fine. Across the street the Piggly Wiggly was completely gone, and the ATMs at Redstone were nothing but a twisted metal framework. A couple of insurance agencies had set up tents, and a red cross truck was giving out free food. Poor Anderson Hill, this is the second time its been wrecked by a tornado - although the first time was years ago.

While that was the worse damage that I personally saw, there are entire towns in Alabama that have been completely destroyed. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimated there were 173 tornadoes Wednesday. It was described on the radio that tornadoes were birthing smaller tornadoes. Many of the tornadoes continued to follow the same paths over and over again through the course of the day, which is why some of these areas were so completely destroyed.

On our way to Kentucky we saw a troop of large utility vans headed towards Alabama, and its was really heartening. We also passed by a gas station where people had been waiting so long they had stepped out of their cars. A gas truck pulled up as we passed, and everyone in the line started clapping and cheering! Its really heartwarming to see all this help that Alabama is receiving. 

President Obama visited Alabama after the disaster.

I am very thankful that my family is safe, and that I don't know anyone personally who was killed.  But I still will keep all those lost and families in need in my heart and in my thoughts.

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