I got a phone call from Cousin Larry in Alabama. He called to tell us the tornado had just gone through their town in Alabama. He wanted us to know that they were all right, but most of the other homes in their neighborhood had not faired so well. Their home had nothing more than a shingle or two missing, but the patio screen and most of the brick house was a solid mass of debris. They had no electricity, but the home, land-line phone did remain functioning. (…for a few hours after the tornado). We heard no more from them for ten days, when we got a brief email. They had been managing on their food storage and emergency preparedness.
We were expecting a visit from them. Ken’s cousin Larry and his wife Barbara had already purchased plane tickets to visit Utah. We didn’t know if the tornado would change their plans. Just days before their scheduled visit, we received word they would be coming. We have been anxious to talk with them, and spent many hours hearing about their experiences. I’ll relate their stories of “The day the tornado hit our neighborhood” :
Severe winds and thunder storms had tormented the entire area the whole day. Three hard storms had all ready hit that day, bringing over three inches of rain. The electricity and the tornado sirens had been going on and off so regularly that one almost became immune to the sound. 70 % of all tornado warnings turn out to not produce a tornado. The radio had been constantly reporting the possibilities of and tornado sightings around the area. The rain gutters on the house were so full of debris, that the rain coming off the roof was like a waterfall. We were already feeling the ferocity of the winds and light debris and leaves whirling outside the windows, when, at about 4:15 P.M., the radio announcer said the tornado had touched down in our town.
“It’s coming!” Larry reported. “Barb and I headed to Phyllis’ bedroom (Phyllis is Barb’s invalid mother.) We were in the process of hoisting her out of her bed and into her chair with the lift, when we heard large debris hitting the house.. It sounded like two by fours and good sized limbs, one after another.”
“It was frightening”, Barbara added. “But we kept working to get mom into her chair and into a safer place like the hallway. It was all over and passed within a few minutes. Just like that!”
“It was our first tornado, we didn’t know the average warning time is only 26 seconds. We didn’t hear any freight train sounds, but then we weren’t in the actual direct path of the tornado. We’ve had been “goners” if we had been, cause we didn’t get to the hallway till after it had passed.” Larry reported.
“The pouring rain continued, so we didn’t go out to look at the neighborhood right away. When we did, the view was unreal. Roofs were gone from most of the houses to our left, just 100 feet away. Trees were gone, or broken off. Some looked as if they had limbs twisted off.. The roads were covered with shingles, plywood and people’s clothes. There was a small front axle trailer impaled directly into a house, half way up, and stuck there.”
“The next day I started cleaning up the roads.” Larry told me. “I knew they would need to be getting emergency vehicles through there. We soon found the whole community, Red Cross, churches and a swarm of other groups were there to help too.”
Chain saws groups were organized. If you owned a gas- chain saw, you were the leader of your group and others were assigned to work for you. We worked most every day for weeks to get streets and yards were cleaned up as quickly as possible. At night, when I got into bed, my arms felt like they were still vibrating from the chain saw.
Electrical power however was a different problem. It was out for ten days. It takes three days to replace one power pole, and most of the city had some problems.
We had a gasoline operated generator, but it was older and stopped working soon after. There were none left to be purchased in our town. Every where was sold out. We had to travel quite a long distance away, but we heard that a Home Depot there would be getting some. We got there a four A.M. and waited till 6 A.M., but we were lucky enough to be among those who were able to purchase a generator. Luckily also, that we had cash on hand at our house, because with electricity out, many places couldn’t accept bank or charge cards. ATM’s were not working. You had to have cash. In the future we plan to put in a wall safe in a lower level somewhere; it’s a good place to keep important papers and cash. Some folks had an awful time because they had their purses and papers blown away and they couldn’t look up numbers and information on the computer.
We felt we were among the lucky ones. The tornado missed hitting us, most of the town was spared a direct hit. We were lucky also because we were prepared. We had money, batteries, water and food storage, camping items and we knew how to use them. Mostly we were able to use what we had in our pantry, refrigerator and freezer. It just had to be without electricity. We used a camp stove and we cooked great meals in our Dutch oven pots in the back yard. With the gasoline generator, we could plug in only a few items at a time. We plugged in the frig and freezer just long enough to keep them cold. We were even able to use our computer once in a while and share a little electricity with the folks next door who also needed to keep their freezers frozen. Another neighbor was on oxygen and needed some electricity to keep their life breathing machines going.
The most reassuring thing was the fact that we were basically prepared. Barb pointed out. We had survived the initial disaster, and we were self reliant enough to get by until things were back to some what of an order.
I asked Barbara what one thing could she pass on to advise others, and she said, Having some extras of the things you use all the time, like can goods, dry goods and paper products, batteries and cash. We didn’t need it, but and first aid kit is good too. “ I can’t tell you what a good feeling it was to know I had what my family needed to be OK! It is true! If you are prepared, you will not fear.”
It takes so little preparation to get and Emergency Preparedness Supply kit ready. There are plenty of helps on the internet. Don’t wait any longer..DO IT! Now! BE PREPARED