April 27th 2011

Hi friends! I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing weekend!  Baron had to work on a project for work all weekend so I busied myself preparing for tornado season here in Alabama and made an emergency kit for our family.  Tomorrow I will share with you what exactly went into our emergency kit, but today I would like to share why it is so important to us to be prepared for anything.

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.

April 27th was the deadliest tornado outbreak in decades.  Although the city we were in wasn't hit as hard as many neighboring cities, there were dozens of tornadoes that touched down and totally tore neighborhoods apart. 

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! :)


agalandherdog said...

Goodness! What a nightmare!

Julie said...

Very wise to have a prepared kit.

Be safe.

Brittany said...

Girl, that was the scariest day of my life!! I am so glad you stayed stafe.

Anonymous said...

whoa, that story was so riveting. i was just glued to my computer while reading it! feel free to share any other incredibly shocking stories like that in the future!!

i'm from canada so we don't ever have to worry about situations like that, which makes it so much more interesting.

glad you were safe, and totally agree, having a shelter in your own home will give you so much peace of mind!! it almost gave ME peace of mind knowing people have the ability to build those shelters to keep their families safe!

Anonymous said...

*Names have been changed, and I’m sorry for the longness of it.*
Well, um... Welcome to Alabama. :) I'm Janie, I'm a teenager, and I've had four really serious tornado days in my life (lived in northern Alabama all my life). The first time, I went camping with my mom and dad, aunt and uncle, and two cousins. I was probably around three or four, but I can still remember most of it. Now, we were out in a camping ground, surrounded by trees- Not exactly a safe shelter. My parents had left earlier to go get charcoal, leaving me with my aunt and uncle. Sometime later, my aunt brought out a radio and turned it to the weather. The weatherman said something about a tornado being close to where we were, apparently on some road just a few miles away, heading north or south or something. I guess she thought I couldn't hear her, because she started flipping out and whispering to my uncle, "That's the road Ginny and Paul (my parents) were taking! Oh my God!"
Well, I nearly started bawling on the spot. I can't remember any tornados before that, except for one where I was at daycare and they made the kids get in a closet, but I knew tornadoes could kill. Next thing I knew, my aunt was trying to force me to sleep, so I wouldn't worry I guess. Sometime later, she came in to the tent, and woke me up. I guess it was around 10:00 PM, but it was so dark from the clouds that I couldn't really tell. I remember that she grabbed my hand, and started dragging me to the car. My parents still weren't back. She put me in the back seat with my two cousins, who started asking where their father, my uncle, was. My aunt said that he'd said he wasn't getting up, because apparently, he wanted to sleep. I really didn't listen that much. I wished that he'd come in, but I couldn't stop wondering where the heck my mom and dad were. I remember staring out the window into the rain and trying not to cry. I guess I fell asleep. Later, when someone picked me up and brought me out of the car, I woke up enough to see my mom and dad standing there. I hugged them for a long time. Turns out that they had been in the car, trying to outrun the tornado, dodging random trees that suddenly fell in the road, and at one point, picking up a couple on the side of the road that had been hiking.

Anonymous said...

(Janie Again)
The second time, I was at my grandparents, and I kept worrying about the storms. I'd been afraid of storms ever since the camping incident. My grandparents told me not to worry about it. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but someone told me to run to the shelter place in the house. I didn't know where that was, and I assumed, for some reason (probably panic) that it was in the living room. I'll never forget how my grandpa was so desperate to get me to stop running in the wrong direction, that he grabbed my collar and pulled me back. I fell over onto the floor of the shelter place. Marcy, my grandma, and my grandpa were right next to me when there was this huge boom of thunder and some other, weird sound, like the roof was coming down. I found out later that I'd been sort of right about the roof. My grandparents had a patio, and the roof over that had fallen down, despite the supports it had on every corner. The third time was April 27th, when I was about 9 years older. I was at school, and the teacher put us out in the hall for pretty much the entire day. When there was a break in the storms, they had every grade going into the cafeteria about three hours too early to eat lunch, and then it was back out to the hall. Teachers began walking the halls, shouting out names for check-out, one after the other. I remember that in the morning, a lot of kids were skipping school because of the storms. Turns out a lot more had been sent to school anyway, just to get checked-out later. I felt like cussing myself for not paying attention to the weatherman. About an hour after our ten minutes of lunch, my mom came and picked me up. She'd already gotten my younger sibling, and when she got me, she was racing back home. As soon as we got in the driveway, she told me to grab my mp3, because it had a radio on it, and to get in the hallway closet with my little sister, Marcy. I was trying to keep Marcy calm, listening to the weather with one ear, and praying for Mom to come into the closet with us. When Mom did open the closet door, it was to throw in a blanket and two pillows. I couldn't hear anything anymore, there wasn't even rain. Mom was standing outside; looking up at the sky to make sure it was gone. When she came back in to get us, the tornadoes were gone. We spent the next week without power, like you. Other towns suffered much worse than we did. The last tornado day I had, the tornado just about hit my school. There's this little street down the side of it with houses and trees, and a bunch were damaged. One big, brick house I passed every day on my way to school was completely leveled. The tornado blew a bunch of the trees down, and even took out a window on the school, and damaged the roof a little. That day wasn't as big of a deal to the rest of Alabama and the U.S., because it didn't damage much and didn't really affect any other towns. The teachers never told us that the tornado was so close. Thankfully, no one was hurt. All of us were singing during the tornado actually. When I told my mom that, she said, "What were you singing? Amazing Grace?" I shook my head and said, "We Will Rock You." You'd think that after all this, I'd be terrified of the weather. But I'm not. April 27th made me realize that weather cannot be controlled. There’s not much you can do except to take care of the others who are frightened and need help. I bet you anything that those employees know that. After living all your life in Alabama, facing tornadoes multiple times in your life, you get used to the panic and fear and learn to swallow it. You'll learn that too, if you haven't already. I'm glad you guys are safe. And bless your hearts, that really wasn't the BEST day to see Alabama... I hope you have better luck in the future.