May 04, 2011
I know my journal entries seem to go unnoticed much anymore--I suppose that comes with me not being as active on the site as I used to be--but I wanted to share my experiences from last week.
I live in Huntsville, Alabama. As any informed American would know, northern Alabama and the Tennessee Valley (north eastern Mississippi, northwest Georgia, the southwestern half of Tennessee and parts of Kentucky) were bombarded with multiple tornadoes on April 27th, some of the worst seen in about 40 years. Needless to say, last Wednesday, a week ago today that doesn't feel as if it's been that long, was a scary day.
Huntsville didn't really see much damage, thankfully. But just north of Huntsville, in East Limestone County, the strongest tornado of the day swept through. The EF-5 tornado (meaning winds were over 200 mph) has completely demolished parts of Athens, Alabama in East Limestone County. I should know first hand, unfortunately, as my family has been staying in that area for the last week because the entire city of Huntsville had its power blacked out. My in-laws live there, and oddly enough, they never lost power to their home although not even a mile away, there is heavy damage, and within two or so miles, complete devastation.
One of my co-workers lives in the area and had just gotten married a few months back and built a home with her husband in that area. They were fortunate to only have part of their roof blown off and all their windows shattered. Others in that same area don't even have a home anymore--even parts of home foundations are missing. There is rubble, debris, and fallen trees everywhere. Trees that are still standing are nothing more than mutilated skeletal sticks, and many of them have sheet metal embedded into their trunks and wrapped around whatever branches may be left.
My husband and I saw one tree as we drove by--I wish we'd had an opportunity to get a photo of it. Its trunk's diameter must have been maybe 2½ - 3 feet, and it was snapped in half like it was nothing more than a toothpick. Stuck to the trunk at the rawest, most damaged broken part of the trunk was a tattered, frayed, and muddied portion of an American flag, yet the red and white stripes were still vivid enough to catch one's eye.
The worst damage of all was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which is west of Birmingham. The entire city is in ruins; there is almost nothing left. At least 65 people lost their lives and over a thousand people have been left injured.
Some of the stories coming out of this tragic disaster are heartwrenching. People fought for their lives and some survived with major injuries, people sacrificed their lives for their loved ones as they attempted to use themselves as shields, babies were ripped from the arms of their families and killed, beloved pets were lost or killed, and many livestock and horses have been fatally injured.
I feel very blessed, and yet somewhat guilty, that my entire family is okay and suffered no loss of life or property. All my family has lost this last week is a couple hundred dollars of cold and frozen food since Huntsville lost power, and the inconvenience of being unable to live at home for a week. Today marks the seventh day my home still awaits electricity. It is REALLY rough living without electricity for so long. I'm glad we had a place to go with all the comforts and conveniences we take for granted without a second thought each day, even though living away from home has been an inconvenience all its own. Life just has not been easy this last week. It's been rather depressing and exhausting.
A week later today, at least 90% of power has been restored to Huntsville and it's my first day back to work again and my sons' first day back to school and daycare. I've been so exhausted and out of routine that I forgot to send Trevor to school with his bookbag. At least everyone around here understands the stress we're all facing right now and his missing bookbag won't be an issue today.
I don't know when my husband and my mom will return to work. Their occupations are in an area that is at the bottom of the priority list to receive power. They are being told it'll probably be Monday. It's getting to be nerve-wracking not having work and not having electricity. It messes with your anxiety levels more than you can imagine. Still, I feel blessed that our city isn't dealing with what others are going through.
I wish this had never happened. I have lived in Alabama for nearly eight years, and I've never really taken severe weather seriously. The most we usually get is heavy rain, loud thunderstorms, and a big load of inconvenience as schools decide to close down halfway into the day and call parents to pick their kids up in the midst of the worst weather. In the past, when I'd hear the weather sirens go off, I'd just roll my eyes and think, "Great. Here we go with all the needless panic and interrupted work days and TV shows as all the meteorologists come on to tell us what we already know--we're having a thunderstorm."
I will admit that last Wednesday morning, I was in the same mindset. I didn't really begin to feel scared until about 4:00 pm. I've never seen the skies get so dark and threatening. Ever. It was like the storms were taking place on the ground instead of in the skies. Athough Huntsville got no tornadoes, we got high winds and downed trees and power lines. My property backs up to city property, which has been neglected in upkeep. My back yard fence line has a thicket on the other side of it that is a hazard to mine and my neighbors' property, but although we've called and complained about it, the city has yet to do anything about it. I don't imagine they ever will. Anyway, there's a massive tree that is dying just beyond my back yard fence. It snapped in half and fell in the storm. By the grace of God, it fell the opposite direction of my home. If it had fallen 180° the other way, it would have gone right through the middle of my house--just where we all were huddled in the bathroom that night for cover.
A tree not even a block away was uprooted and fell on the power lines. Maybe that's why we have yet to get power, even though the tree has been cut down and the lines restored. The front yard of the home where that tree stood is also very fortunate that the tree did not fall in the opposite direction, and the home across the street from it is very fortunate that the power lines kept it from going through their home.
It's all just crazy. Sad. Devastating. Heartbreaking.
We have a lot of work cut out for us.
So please...to anyone who reads this, please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross at www. redcross. org (remove the spaces between the dots). Click the "donate now" button and select "American Red Cross Northern Alabama-Tennessee Valley Region.”
Our region is desperately in need of help and donations to get things restored again. I know a big need is baby items such as diapers, wipes, formula, and jars of baby food.
If you can't donate, please keep this region of the United States in your thoughts and prayers.