Waking up at 3:58 am on April 27th, 2011 by tornado sirens was not the perfect beginning to a new day.
A possible tornado near Waterloo, Alabama . The storm passed quickly over the county,
only later to find out a F1 tornado had touched down then.
only later to find out a F1 tornado had touched down then.
I was to awake at 4:00 am anyway , for a meeting in Huntsville with my assistant manager Kat. We were both already a little hesitant about the trip any way, severe weather had been predicted for the day and we had hoped they would cancel the meeting because of the threat. But work must go on and we drove through rain and storms as we headed to a Kmart store in Huntsville. Our working meeting began immediately . Thanks to a dear friend/Kmart associate Janice,(she and I are known as the weather girls at our store), we were kept updated to the upcoming storms. It wasn't looking good as she sent pictures of weather maps showing the intensity of the storms approaching our area. Soon an announcement came over the intercom for everyone to go to the back of the store immediately Looking towards the front windows you could see dark clouds, pouring rain and wind whipping the trees around, we all filed to the break room of the store and sat waiting on what came next. I called Janice and she said that a huge storm was right up on us and tornado warning were out. My husband John, called telling us that we needed to leave soon , it wan't looking good. After a 20 to 30 minute wait, everyone was allowed back out to the floor. We returned to work and continued to get updates about the weather from The Weather Girl. I sent a message asking when the bad stuff was suppose to hit... she wrote back saying,
"Late afternoon is when it will hit...these are the one's they said had the supercells" 12:58 pm.
She sent this map showing approaching storms.
After having lunch we received another text from Janice at 1:35 showing the storms growing and larger .
"Hittin' the Shoals around 3:00pm " she said
Kat went to our fashions district manager and told her we were leaving, the weather was
gonna be rough on the way home. Thanks goodness we left right then. We had no idea what we would have ran into if we had waited until the end of the meeting.
Driving home the rain was bad and power was out on down highway 72. Tree's were knocked over and uprooted along the way from the storm that had came through earlier. It was a long stressful trip home.
We continued to get updates from The Weather Girl as we traveled. When we finally arrived at our Kmart in Florence right at 3:15 or so. I told Kat to look up at the clouds and the flag as we entered the parking lot. Both were blowing in the opposite direction they should be. The storms were moving in from west and the wind was blowing to the east. It was very eerie. We both were exhausted and wanted to get home quickly so out of sheer stupidity we both left to go to our homes, knowing that the terrible storms were right at our backs.
As soon as I turned around and went back east on 72 ,I could see the clouds behind me getting darker and darker. I called my mother as I drove home to keep me company in the stressful situation. As I crossed Shoals Creek bridge I noticed in my rear view mirror a flash of light and saw sparks falling from the transformer on the opposite side of the bridge. I knew something wasn't right. The sky had an eerie green cast and the wind was getting worse. I told mother that something was going on ...as I continued to drive my heart was pounding. Mother told me that the day before and that morning she had prayed for all of our family's protection by name from the up coming storms. As I drove into Killen and looked to the sky up over the ball field and could see the tops of the trees thrashing in the wind. As I approached the post office I could see a white twirling cloud over the tree tops. Limbs and leaves were spinning over head. Realizing what was happening above and my heart racing I told mother "Something is happening" I jumped from my car with the phone in my ear and ran into the post office. Two workers held the door for me as the wind tried to keep it shut. I rushed in shaking from head to toe and we stood watching as the clouds passed over us spinning, rolling and dipping from the sky. I held the phone to my ear wanting my mother as close to me as possible through this storm. John beeped in soon telling me there was a really bad storm on 72. He was at a convience store and the doors were rattling and bowing in. Through tears, and my entire body shaking I told him what was going on outside right then. Soon we heard sirens and saw rescue vehicles outside. Something had passed over us ... John called again and said there had been a funnel cloud sighted over Lock 6 road, right next to the post office. I think I was slightly in shock. My couldn't stop the shaking through my body. I was terrified at what had ALMOST happened to us three in that post office. I know in my heart that a tornado has passed right over us. I cautiously opened the door and thanked the employees for letting me in and slowly walked to my car. The clouds rolled away from us but the sky was dark still. I wanted to be home desperately. I tried to call Kat and Janice but cellphone service was acting up. I finally called the store and heard Janice's voice and fell to pieces. Telling her about my terrifying experience , I sobbed and she cried along with me. Kat beeped in and we cried together too. When I finally arrived home the weather was going from bad to worse all around us.
Another call from mother said that Tanner was in direct line for a 3/4 mile tornado. I called Allen and Natasha and told them what was heading their way. They had no power from an earlier storm so couldn't get any information. They said they were going to the closet now. There seemed to be one wave after another going right through their area . I continued to call and text them with warnings. Cell service was about out and their phones were loosing battery power. A text from Natasha at 4:59pm read:
" Please let us know if there are any more coming here! Thank You! Love You!!"
I got through to Allen once more. They were still in the closet wanting to know what was going on. I told him there were so many storms going on I could hardly keep up with them. He opened the closet door and looked out and said, " The trees are touching the ground!!!" I yelled for him to get back in the closet!I told him that Mother and I were praying for them to be protected.
We lost our connection. I was horrified as there was no contact for several minutes. I got several calls from concerned John, Mother , Janice , Bridgette and family and friends during all of this... I soon got another text from Allen,
5:11pm."What's going on now, are we clear?"
"Stay where you are!" I told them .
another text from Natasha:
5:25pm " Let us know when it is over."
Soon another message came,
5:45 "We just drove to Athens"
With no contact for over an hour , I finally got another message from Allen
7:18pm" We r at a church near our house"
7:34 " We ok at storm shelter"
8:38 "we at home"
|This home was located in Tanner in the vicinity of Rosie Road.|
|Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. A large tornado sweeps through Limestone County near Stewart Rd. Wednesday afternoon. The twister was on the ground through at least four north Alabama counties including Limestone County where this photo was taken.|
|Electrical towers in Tanner|
If we had only known what was really going on April 27th 2011, all around us that day in those several hours of phone calls and texting ! Alabama was hit by 71 tornadoes that day.The south had a total of 312, setting a one day record from the Outbreak of 1974 of 148 tornadoes. Hundreds of lives lost, thousands of homes destroyed and thousands of lives completely torn apart . I have watched hours of news footage of the complete annihilation of Phil Campbell and Hackelburg by a EF 5. Mass distruction in Madison and Limestone county and Tuscaloosa and even the little town of Tanner where my son lives.
As my son and his wife sat huddled with their dog in a tiny closet, the neighborhoods down the road from them were in the midst of devestaion. Just blocks from their home lives were lost and homes destroyed. I thank God everyday that He was there in that little closet with them. I know the prayers of my Mother kept that horrible storm from away. Just a tiny turn of the path of the tornado and I know what COULD have happened. .
They did not have power for days and their storage building where they had put many of their belongings for a future move,was demolished . Yet they were able to save most of what was inside.
|Ariel view of storage units|
|18 wheeler on the units where my son and his wife had things stored for a future move|
In the aftermath of this horrible storm , I have seen a wonderful out pouring of love and support from our very on communities like never before. One FEMA representative said "In one day here in Alabama, we have seen more of an out pouring of support than in several days in the Katrina disaster in Louisana."
But we knew that about Alabamians, did'nt we? But the world see's it now the bond we have here. Even die hard football rivalries Alabama and Auburn have laid down the gridiron hatred to join hands in this tradgedy .
Auburn University students started this group Toomers for Tuscaloosa that has been pivotal in getting all kinds supplies to every county in Alabama that was effected by the storms.It has been amazing what they have been able to accomplish by just asking others to pitch in.
For once we Iron Bowlers can say Roll Tide and War Eagle! Neighbors helping neighbors , friends helping friends but most of all strangers helping strangers all in the name of love. My home's in Alabama...Sweet Home Alabama!!!
(P.S. I have formally retired from being the other weather girl at Kmart, lol!)