Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Storm

Something I didn't realize before I moved to Alabama was that these southerners have a tornado season. . . and scorpions (who knew?). The owners of our house mentioned as we were moving in that they had only had to to huddle in the closet under the stairs a couple times for tornado warnings. This was the first time I heard that tornados happened in the south on a somewhat regular basis. Tornado season in Alabama is March through April. We have tornado sirens that go off, alerting everyone to pay attention, get somewhere safe and so far this year we have heard it go off 5 or 6 times. The first time we heard it go off at about 11 o'clock in the evening. So being the tornado novices that we are, we got our kids our of bed, and huddled in the bathroom for a half an hour until the storm warnings stopped. It turned out no tornados that night and we felt we probably overreacted a bit by getting our kids out of bed. But I wasn't going to ignore a tornado siren.

We had several more dangerous storms that were heralded by tornado sirens and most did not result in tornados of any sort. So we were started to feel the "crying wolf" effect of the sirens and not taking them as serious as we did at first. One night around 8, right after we had put the kids to bed, it was raining and thundering and the sirens started up again. We turned on our tv to watch where the storm was headed to see if we really needed to get our kids back out of bed. The lightening started picking up, crashing louder and more frequently. We thought the girls might get scared, so as Cody was going up the stairs to get them, I heard three rapid crashes, sounding just as loud as a gun being shot in the same room, simultaneous to the flashes of lighting. The power went our and I jumped in my seat and immediately started to tear up (not because I was scared but because loud noises make me cry- seriously). But it did startle me. I have never heard lightening strike so close or so loud- I thought it might have hit our house, or at least, right out side of it.

That night we learned an expensive lesson about the value of surge protectors. The lightening fried all of our tvs, a cd player, our computer, and our xbox (which we had had for a grand total of 4 months). Bummers, right?

Cody was super bummed that night. He was almost in shock about the loss of all our electronics. "I guess that's why they tell you to have surge protectors." I said so pointlessly after-the-fact.

"I thought that was just a line from surge protector salesmen! Who knew??" he said exasperatedly.

But know we know.

A few weeks later, on April 27, about 3:30 in the morning, Claire woke me up saying she needed to puke. I love wake up calls like that. So she proceeded to puke and poop her guts out and I cleaned it all up, dry-heaving as I went along. I finally got back into bed at 4:30, laying awake a bit traumatized with what I had just gone through and dreading the plague that had so obviously entered our home. At 5 am, right as I had just fallen asleep, I was awakened by the blasted tornado siren!! And I just didn't believe its cry for danger. We listened on the radio (because we were sans tvs) and decided not to get the kids up. But it did storm something fierce. As Cody drove to work that morning, roads were blocked from downed trees and power lines, but everything around us seemed fine. We didn't lose power, though much of the area did. All day the news was saying more big, dangerous storms were coming, but I took everything with a grain of salt. By early afternoon I was still debating about whether we should have mutual or not. And then the storms started coming. About 3 in the afternoon I heard the first reports of tornados touching down in the northern part of Alabama. I saw the video of the twister in Cullman, not really thinking anything of it. I didn't really appreciate the deadly nature that tornados could really be. An hour later I saw the reports of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, again not realizing the reality of the damage that was happening. Even when the newscaster said that he was getting reports that whole blocks of the city were gone, just missing, I didn't feel it. I thought he was being a drama queen for ratings sakes.

About an hour later as the tornado came approaching us, I still didn't have any fear. Cody wasn't home yet from work, I was trying to get the kids to eat dinner fast before we had to huddle in the bathroom. When Cody arrived home, we had about 10 minutes before the newscaster said the tornadoo was heading right for our neighborhood within the next 2 minutes, so we sat in our bathroom. I battled with Luke trying to get him to sit still, and the girls fought over a water bottle. I was totally annoyed. Nothing really happened. Fifteen minutes later, we came out of the bathroom and watched the rest of the storm coverage on the news. We watched live footage as the huge tornado moved across the city.

It wasn't until the next day as they were showing footage of the areas destroyed, raising the death toll, recounting people's experiences that I finally feared the tornado. We were in a brick house- I didn't think that tornados would rip apart a brick house. But oh boy, they do.

The tornado came within about 5-10 miles of us. It went through our ward boundaries, destroying homes of several families in our wards. The first storm of the day, that early one in the a.m. had knocked down trees on houses, downed power lines that had left most of the people in our ward without power for days. Though none of the homes around us were affected, we did have debris fall into our yard. A piece of a ceiling tile lay in the middle of our driveway. From where? Who knows. It came a long way, though.

For the month of May our church building was the headquarters for relief effort by the LDS church. It was amazing to see how quickly they assembled and with what force they brought. Our gym and many of the rooms in the building were quickly filled with food, water, clothing, wheel barrows, supplies. Thousands of LDS members volunteered in the clean-up, many coming from out of state and camping on the grass outside of the church. Cody had the opportunity to go out on several different cleaning crews into the hardest hit areas, and he was awestruck at the enormity of the destruction. After a couple of weeks we were allowed to drive through the areas so we took our kids to see what the tornado had done. Even after two weeks time of clean up the areas were unbelievable to see. Large trees snapped in half, homes ripped open with the insides exposed, some furniture still in place, looking like big doll houses. Trees, branches, cars, wood tossed everywhere. it is hard to describe. It looked like a bomb had hit.

Now I give the tornado its proper respect. I am sure I will fear it more if it comes around again. Hopefully that is something we won't ever have to face again.