Home > tornado, update > Day 0: The Day Our Life Changed

Day 0: The Day Our Life Changed

27 April 2011

The Tuscaloosa Alabama Tornado Disaster – The day our life changed.

I didn’t check the weather before leaving the house. Half way to school, Teddy got a call from Jen that school was canceled. I was incensed! I called Barbara and was very rude to her that I was not informed. She told me that it has always been their policy that when the city schools close, so do they. I was put out that I had to drive the kids back home before I could go to work. I was furious that the kids had a more effective communications network than I had. By the time I got home, I was in such a state that I exploded at Toni, before coffee. Not a good way to start the day. I was mad that she did not share my frustration.

At work, Toni called and bawled me out. I tried to apologize but she would have none of it. She said it was no longer my responsibility to take the kids anywhere – she could not trust me. Later, Mom called. Toni was very upset and worried about my anger episodes, as was Mom. I promised to do something about it.

I left work at 1615, when the campus closed due to the tornado warning. At home, the kids were already in the hall and Toni was watching TV. I watched as the Tornado approached downtown Tuscaloosa. By 1710, Toni was in the hall and the power failed. I went around turning off things when the wind started to growl. Toni said, “That is not a train!”

I got in the hall and we all held on to the kids, the dogs and each other.

At 1714, the Tornado passed very near our house. The house was shaking, and the wind was howling so loudly that we didn’t hear the hundreds of trees falling around the neighborhood. We felt the big crashes as the 6 big trees fell on our house. From where I was sitting, I could see out the back window, through the porch, and all I could see was green blurs as the leaves were blown around just off the porch.

The wind was whooshing, the trees crashed into our house, the walls were shaking like when you try to pull a pole up out of the ground… wiggle, pull, wiggle, pull. I was thinking that this might be the end and the walls would come crashing down at any moment. Waiting for the roof to give up and crash down on us all, I thought, maybe it was a good thing we hadn’t cancelled my “extra” life insurance policy.

At 1720 it was over. I came out and was dumbstruck by the destruction. Our backyard was covered in trees and leaves, 6 big trees has crashed into our house and it has held them up. We were alive and unharmed, albeit scared out of our wits. Toni called her sister and told them to get to the storm shelter, it was big and coming their way.

The largest tree, the one we had been worried about for a while, had fallen on our bedroom and a branch had punctured thru the metal roof, the shingles and wood roof, and our bedroom ceiling. Sheetrock and insulation was everywhere. The roof joists and rafters were cracked and broken, but the roof held the weight. Structural Damage, oh no! I tried to call the insurance company immediately – no answer.

Toni feared for the house collapsing, so she said grab what you can and we’re leaving. I grabbed a bag from the attic, seeing that the breaks went all the way to the peak. I cleared off the driveway, though the shade from our backyard now hung off the front of our roof and the power lines were hanging off the roof.The big tree between us and the Haygums crashed into their house. I backed the cars out without touching the limbs nor the power lines. We loaded up with clothes, papers, meds, the dogs, the dragon and laptops and headed out. We got one house away before we could go no further – blocked in. We returned to the house.

Grabbing the cooler, I tried to collect water for when the water failed too – it was brown, contaminated.

We venture outside and are flabbergasted by the destruction. the trees are all pushed toward the path of the core tornado. Behind the houses across the street, the trees are snapped off. It was so close. Every time the wind gusts a little, a new alert cry goes out that another one is headed this way and we all cringe for the next one that gets what this one missed, but no second one comes.

As dusk falls, Northstar EMTs come in on foot, looking for our house. they must have misunderstood when Crystal wanted someone to check on her aunt, they thought she lived here. We thanked them for checking on us. The wind starts to kick up again and then we realize that is not just wind this time, but rain… The hole in our bedroom! We run back and slam coolers and tubs under the hole to catch the rainwater as we watch helplessly as water pours in our bedroom. Luckily the rain does not last long and the coolers catch most of it.

As night deepens, we get spotty communications from firefighters and police coming through on foot about schools that have been destroyed, sections of town that are just flattened. and all this time, Toni cannot find Donna. no response to any calls.

We piled the mattresses in the family room, between the trees resting on the bedroom and car port ends of the house. We learn that Terri, Dawn and Faye are safe. Mom and Dad are not answering, I fear for them. We settled in for some rest, Toni doesn’t go to sleep till 0400, listening to her babies breathe and worrying about Donna. I slept fitfully, waking often.

We are safe, alive and together.

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