At first I really couldn't think of a scary moment. I mean in general I'm incredibly paranoid - the scratching on the window is ALWAYS an axe murder never a branch - but nothing really terrifying has ever happened to me. So I started to think about the times I've been scared and April 27, 2011 came to mind.
April 27, 2011 started with the tornado warnings sirens blaring and school delays. This isn't uncommon here. Huntsville, AL has been the Weather Channel's city most likely to get hit by a tornado for years. We get a lot of warnings here and the weather people always seem to be forecasting doom and gloom. I can't count the number of times I've stood outside and pointed out funnel clouds and wall clouds and talked about how weird it felt. Most people I know are pretty calm about tornado warnings. If they start talking about the area you're in maybe you'll put your shoes on and get in the basement or closet but most people don't really take the warnings seriously. Or they didn't.
Anyway back to that morning. The warning passed and the weather cleared up a little. The next storm wasn't expected to hit until late afternoon so Emma and Paul caught the bus to the middle school and J dropped Eleanor off at the high school. I put the Tornado (who was 15 months old) down for his morning nap and the day continued like any other day. My mother was in the area and stopped over for a visit. And then my phone rang. It was J asking if I was watching the weather. It was getting bad. I shoved the Tornado into our pantry under the stares with my mother and stood at the window and the sky turned green and the wind picked up. J made it home right before it hit but just barely. And then it was calm. We went outside and checked for damages. Branches and trees were down everywhere but most structures looked okay. J left to go pick up the kids. With all the trees down what is normally a 5 minute drive took almost 2 hours.
|The end of the driveway|
We laughed and talked about how the weather people weren't wrong this time. People came with chainsaws and ATVs to try and move some of the big trees that had fallen across the main road that runs by our house. I took a few pictures. Mother left and J and the kids finally made it home. The kids talking excitedly over each other about what their few hours at school had been like. The power had gone out and we made guesses as to when it would come back on and opened the refrigerator doors for 5 seconds twice so that we could make something to eat. It was Emma who heard the news first. There was another tornado spotted just a few miles away from our house. We crammed back underneath the stairs. Emma, then Eleanor, then the Tornado and me, then Paul and then J. And we waited really in truly believing that it was nothing just like it always is.
|This was taken only a few miles away and the photographer is looking in the direction of my house|
|Taken by Glenn Baeske - The Huntsville Times|
When we came out we surveyed the damage. We were so incredibly lucky. We lost about 15 trees but the house was intact with no damage where so many of our neighbors were not so fortunate. Whole areas and subdivisions were destroyed and 9 people in our area were killed. The father of a classmate of Eleanor's was killed when he left the safety of the closet to tackle his daughter who just needed "one more thing" just as the roof was ripped off their house. She survived with only bumps and bruises.
We had no power for about 10 days and school was cancelled for 2 weeks while everyone regrouped and rebuilt. As horrible as it sounds the days after were fun. We all slept in the living room and played board games by lantern light and the majority of the day was spent hauling branches and figuring out what we were going to do about food.
|Playing Apples to Apples in the dark. I don't remember if it was just before Easter or if Easter had just passed and I hadn't put up the decorations!|
You can still see bits of the devastation that occurred that day. There are empty lots, big dips in the ground where massive trees were pulled up and chimneys that are standing in empty fields. And I think we all take tornado warnings a little bit more seriously now and I can still remember huddling in the dark hearing the sound of the tornado passing over the house.
So that's my story of my scariest moment which ended up being a little more long winded than I intended!