Thursday, April 28, 2011

We Are Fine, But Many Are Not

If you’ve seen the news today, you’ve probably seen coverage of the tornadoes that came through Alabama yesterday.  I’ve lived in Alabama my whole life, and I’m not new to tornadoes.  My parents’ house was leveled in the 1974 tornado outbreak, and so we always took tornado warnings seriously when we were growing up.  I remember going into the storm shelter at my grandmother’s house (where my brother and sister-in-law now live) on many different occasions. 

Gary and I don’t have a basement or a storm shelter, but we have a safe place identified in an interior hallway on our first floor, and that’s where we gather the kids for tornado warnings.  Honestly, since the kids have been born, we’ve probably had to go to the safe place only 3 or 4 other times.  Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to the phone ringing and the sirens going off (we use WeatherCall for storm warnings, which is great).  We grabbed the kids and went to our safe place, and stayed there for about 45 minutes.  To be completely candid, it was a little scary there for a moment.  We lost power right off the bat (which is very rare in our neighborhood), and heard a few small things hitting our windows, but it was just strong winds and a bit of rain.  To our surprise the kids went upstairs and back to bed after the warning was over.  Gary and I then took a nap upstairs in the guest bedroom so that we could hear them since the monitors weren’t working without power. 

I grew up in north Alabama and I have many Facebook friends from up there.  When I started checking Facebook yesterday morning, I saw that by the time I showered they’d already had 3 tornado warnings.  I called to check on my mom and dad, then got ready for work.  The more I paid attention to the weather forecast (I love James Spann’s weather blog), the more I started getting worried.  Plus, as a farmer’s daughter and someone who has grown up in Alabama seeing severe weather, I can just feel in the air when bad weather is coming.  And it felt bad yesterday.  I decided to go to my hearing then head home. 

At some point I remembered my stash of frozen breastmilk and called Gary in a panic that we wouldn’t get power back before the next wave of storms and it would thaw and have to be thrown away.  He promised to find a small appliance generator or something to save the breastmilk.  Luckily, our electricity was restored around 2:30 p.m. before I made it home, and once I was home our nanny went to her home to check on things there.  Gary got home shortly thereafter (he couldn’t find a decent generator for a reasonable price, but we had power by that time so I was feeling better about things).   We watched the weather for a bit, and decided we were in the clear for a couple of hours, so we took a nap since the kids were napping, too.

When I woke up from my nap, I checked Facebook on my iPhone and saw that my sister-in-law had just posted a status update about debris falling from the sky.  Not long after that my Mom called to tell me about a huge tornado that passed by (they were watching it from the door of the storm shelter).  Here are some photos of it that my brother took on his phone of that tornado.

photo_2[1] (2) photo_1[1] (3)We got the kids up and Gary bathed them, then about that time everything started happening in Birmingham.  Tornadoes were spotted in Cullman, and in Tuscaloosa.  Then the tornado warnings started for our area and we went to our safe place.  In between some tornado warnings, we were watching the news coverage and saw a tornado that came from Tuscaloosa and was heading toward downtown Birmingham, where both Gary and I work.  It filled the entire screen.  It was so big that at first Gary didn’t even think it could be a tornado.  Click HERE to see a video that was pretty popular on Facebook last night that shows you what we were watching.

As we were watching that tornado, we got another tornado warning, went to our safe place, and lost electricity.  Gary ran upstairs and grabbed Penelope’s radio and we found a channel with James Spann’s storm coverage.  We kept that station on until hours later, when the worst had passed and the station went back to playing bad 80’s music.  We ate cold chicken fingers for dinner then put the kids into bed a bit late, then Gary and I sat down and tried to get our iPhones to work for long enough to see what was going on.  We weren’t able to get much information due to busy networks.  We were pretty sure that we were going to see lots of bad things the next morning when the sun came out and we had more contact with the outside world. 

And we were right.  The damage is downright shocking.  We are so lucky to have made it through the storm with our house and family intact.  We even got electricity late last night as we were going to bed.  So many others in our community and state were not nearly that lucky.  Gary and I went in to work (albeit a little late today).  It was surreal to be doing normal things with all the destruction and deaths nearby.  We’ve been watching the news coverage all day, and our hearts go out to all of those suffering now.  It’s going to take a little while for our city and state to get back on their feet, but I’m sure it will happen. 


Mona Baker said...

so glad you are ok, knew you were near, but not what city

Lindsey Wolfe said...

I was thinking of you guys yesterday - so glad you and your family are safe and well. So many prayers for all the others who were not as lucky. Take care

beth said...

i am glad that you all are okay. i was worried about you all. it is just so awful. like you i have lived in alabama all my life and have seen some bad storms but nothing like this.