wednesday, april 27th, kevin and i were awakened by tornado sirens. i was non-plussed as i have never seen an actual tornado hit birmingham. it just doesn’t happen. there is something about the topography of Red Mountain that acts as a buffer to our tiny big city. the day started just like any other day. i got up, showered, got Hannie up, fed her, got us all out the door on time. it was incredibly windy but by the time i parked the car at Hannie’s school, things had lightened up.
when i arrived at work my boss and i were chatting about the early morning storm. she mentioned that what we experienced would pale in comparison to what we were in for that evening. i was confused. i had heard nothing about impending dangerous weather. i didn’t even realize the damage that the early morning storm had done. quickly, i logged onto the internet and there were constant streams of information from NOAA about the super cells of storms headed our way. what was to be a normal wednesday turned into a 12 hour panic attack.
i couldn’t breathe. my heart was beating uncontrollably. my stomach was in knots. all i could think about was Hannie at school on top of the mountain and my parents in their spacious 35 foot RV. images of the RV swirling in a tornado flashed through my mind. i called my mother and pleaded with her to go to our house for shelter. we were still 5 hours from any major activity, yet i was lining up the troops. information from news stations kept flying in. kevin called and said they were closing his office at 1 p.m. and would pick up Hannie and take her home. i felt a small shroud lifted. atleast she’ll be with him. let her be safe in his arms.
it hit. a tornado hit the city of Cullman. a sleepy town 60 miles to our north. we watched it on our conference room television live from a traffic camera. the meteorologist just stood there, mouth agape. we were silent. panic was tightening my chest and tears began to form in my eyes. i looked away. it was 3 p.m. now and rumors of closing the building were circulating. my boss decided to close our office at 3:30 p.m.
once i was home the panic washed away. i had my family with me and all of the reports were telling us the storms were headed in a northern pattern. we walked around the neighborhood a little and let Hannie swing on “aunt” michelle’s porch swing. i timidly kept checking the sky and it was turning darker. we went inside to check the weather and to much of our surprise our iron giant, Red Mountain could not keep the danger away. impact was targeted directly on us. i welcomed the panic this time.
i called my parents and told them to get to our house “NOW”. kevin and i began gathering candles, important papers, medicine, blankets, Hannie’s favorite stuff animals, leashes for the dogs, the cat’s collar. i filled up Hannie’s juice cup and downed a glass of wine. i could not take an anti-anxiety pill for it would knock me on my behind. i needed my wits about me, but i also needed to calm down. my parents arrived just as the sky turned green. the satellite went out and the power flickered. we headed to the basement. all of us tuned into some sort of radio or smart device.
the tornado, a one and a half mile wide monster, missed us by 6 miles. i checked my iphone and the radar was blank. no reds or greens or yellows. just blank. we went back up stairs and it was all over.
we fed Hannie dinner while we kept updates on what exactly happened. i was numb. i just stared out the window. the sun began shining through a thin veil of clouds. but the sun was on the wrong side of the sky. my parents packed up their belongings and headed back to their RV to check for any damage. Hannie finished dinner and we got her bathed and in bed. as i sat on our bed i watched the television in horror at the pure size of the tornado that missed us. it was massive. and it took out entire towns. overwhelmed, i cried.
the next morning was overcast, but the clouds burned off quickly. the internet and news stations reported the complete decimation of heavily populated towns. i felt utter sadness and despair as the death and injury count rose throughout the day. the only bright spot was the amazing unity of people coming together to help their neighbors. it was the ebb and flow of the storm. it churned us up and spit us out, only to form a stronger bond.