When Baron accepted his job here in north Alabama I had never been here! After my last night of work in Jacksonville, Baron and I left the very next morning to make a road trip to Alabama for me to see where our future life was taking us and to find an apartment for us to live in.
We nailed down our apartment choice early in the trip and were planning on having a relaxing, touristy day on our last day in Alabama before driving home. That was on April 27, 2011. You may or may not know what else happened on that day in northern Alabama.
Baron and I had heard from countless people on our trip that the tornado sirens went off all the time and it was nothing to worry about. If there was actually a tornado, it was a really small one that would go through the farm lands and not do much damage at all. The night before the tornado outbreak we actually had dinner with old friends of Baron's and they said not to worry about the sirens at all, the weathermen here freaked out about everything and they went off all the time.
On April 27th I woke up at about 4 am and heard tornado sirens. I chuckled to myself and tried to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned but never could fall asleep; the sirens, wind, and thunder were just too loud. I posted this on facebook, not knowing yet what was in store for us that day...
"Woke up at 4:30AM to the loudest thunder I've ever heard & tornado sirens. Ack! Welcome to Alabama!"
Later that morning Baron and I decided we were going to just drive and try to find our way around our new city. It was cloudy and drizzling outside, but nothing too bad. The weathermen were just saying to stay tuned and be ready for storms later that day. I was actually driving when we started noticing that the clouds were getting darker and darker. We were about to run out of gas, so we decided to fill up before heading somewhere close to our hotel to grab something for lunch. As soon as we finished filling up, the clouds really started rolling in, the thunder claps were deafening, and the wind and rain were getting intense. As I was hurrying back towards our hotel it got really bad! I was so scared and wanted to stop the car and let Baron drive. I'll never forget as we turned a corner and could barely make out a street sign that was bent in half and blowing sideways because the rain was falling so hard and fast, Baron said, "We don't have time for that!" I knew it was serious then and put the pedal to the metal! By then we both realized that it was really serious and there may by a tornado seriously on top of us! Baron yelled, "Turn left! I think there's a Kroger in there!"
Keep in mind that we could not see a thing, I could barely make out the roads but I barreled into the Kroger parking lot (thank goodness!!) and for some reason I was trying to actually park the car and Baron said, "It doesn't matter, put the car in park, let's GO!"
We ran into Kroger as fast as we could with just my purse and a towel we happened to have in the car. When we made it inside it was like a scene from a movie. The place was deserted. The lights were flickering and someone was yelling over the intercom "Code Adam!" (which is usually a missing child, so I'm thinking they were just panicking). Then we saw the manager and he yelled to us, "Get to the back, QUICK!"
Baron and I were soaked and we ran as fast as we could through the aisles into the back warehouse of the store where there were employees who grabbed us and hurried us in. There were about 200 other people in the back seeking shelter. I started crying as soon as we found a crate of dog food to sit on, I literally thought this was the end of us. I tried to text our parents and tell them that we were okay for now and we had found shelter but our cell phones weren't working.
I will always remember how calm and professional the employees were. They were hugging people, passing out water, and making sure that the elderly had places to sit down. After what seemed like hours, the manager made an announcement that there should be a break in the storms if we wanted to try to get home.
Baron and I went straight to our hotel room and watched the news all afternoon. Luckily, we were able to communicate with our parents via facebook and let them know we were okay. I posted this at some point that afternoon...
"Survived our first string of northern Alabama tornadoes, in the back warehouse of a Kroger, with about 200 other people, soaking wet, thankful for a generator & very nice manager passing out water, crackers, & hugs. Storms expected all day. Looks like we'll be spending our last day in the hotel lobby :) Good thing I love this boy!"
At about 6 o'clock that evening the weathermen started saying to seek shelter, these weren't normal Alabama tornadoes, and that things were about to be really serious. We headed down to the lobby to ride it out, and spent about an hour in the bathrooms with some other people before just making a spot in the lobby. We lost power and sat in the dark for hours.
|Photo taken from the lobby of our hotel sometime that afternoon before the weather got worse|
|Baron and I in the hotel lobby after losing power. We wanted to show our parents that we were still smiling :)|
We thought about trying to leave that night after all the storms had passed and just getting somewhere where they had power and we could get something to eat. We went upstairs to our room and packed up all of our belongings in the dark with just the light from our cellphones. Baron decided (thank goodness!) that it would be best to wait until morning when we could actually see the roads. I whined more than I should have, admittedly. I was terrified, tired, shaken, and hungry. We charged our phones in the car for a little while before heading upstairs to go to bed.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to make the drive home. It was terrifying to see what had transpired the night before in broad daylight. I am so thankful for our safety. We had an uneventful drive home and were so happy to be back in Florida!
Our new city would be left without power for a week. People were left to clean up with no gas, electricity, stores, or restaurants that were open. We learned that it was important to have at least a minimum supply of emergency supplies in case of that ever happening again. A priority in building our new house was that it had to have a storm shelter of some kind! We decided to have our master closet made into a storm shelter and are so happy with that decision. I think it'll make this storm season a little easier for us.
Come back tomorrow and I'll break down the ingredients to our Emergency Kit!
Have a happy Monday! :)