Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm Okay

Not sure how many of you realize that I live in North Alabama. But I do. And we had a whole mess of tornadoes come through my town. About a mile from me a coworkers house was completely destroyed. Before you ask, my house is fine. And before you ask, he and his family are all fine.

Ichi and I spent most of the 27th hiding in my closet. The power went out at 5:30pm and a short bit later I was bored and starving so I quickly grabbed a box of graham crackers, some pillows and attempted to find a flashlight. Come to find out, Ichi's a graham cracker thief! And while I was stuck, I totally reorganized my closet. It's not the first time I've done that in a tornado.

Ichi was not a fan of being stuck in the closet

I went to bed on Wednesday still with no power and no idea how bad things were. Joey called to check on me (how phones were working Wednesday but not Thursday, I have NO IDEA) but that was all the info I had. I woke up Thursday and was amazed at how little damage the neighborhood took. Lots of downed trees and fences, but no major damage to houses.

No more willow trees for my neighborhood
But I still had no power. The entire county and a few neighboring counties had no power at all. I drove by work to check if they  had generators, but no such luck. I couldn't have even gotten in the building. With no power, my wireless phones wouldn't work. And my cell phone was virtually useless. No calls could go through. Every 2 hours or so I would get a whole lot of text messages at once. But I couldn't hold a signal long enough to respond to all of them. I managed to tell my mother that I was okay. And I found a way to tweet (because I couldn't get data, yay for it being connected to text messaging).

Fence line on my side of the neighborhood
No power = no gas at gas stations. Thus lines were horridly long. Rather than wait in them, Joey and I drove to Tennessee for gas and waited in line for about 30 minutes. Then we drove back through ravaged Harvest, which is just north of me (so close that a lot of my friends and coworkers live there). Anderson Hills was just leveled. 85% of the homes in the subdivision were completely destroyed. One looked like someone with a giant hand had punched through the roof and grabbed all the innards and pulled it back out.

Western side of my neighborhood
Joey went to check on his mom and was supposed to come back but got caught by the brand new curfew. So Friday morning I headed to my parents' house. But first I had to get gas as I didn't have enough to get home. I waited an hour+ in line at walmart (who had gotten generators) but I was able to fill up completely when I got up to the pumps. They weren't letting in volunteers yet, so sitting in the car listening to the radio for an hour with the A/C blowing was better than sitting in the house.

power lines down in Athens on our way to Tennessee
When people started getting power back on Sunday, I decided to head back on Monday, but alas, still no power at my house. So I cleaned out the fridge and freezer of all the spoiled food, threw the suitcases back in the car and drove back to Clanton.

Power crews working. The WAFF 48 doppler is supposed to be on that tower in the background.
I got an email from the HOA on Tuesday that our power had FINALLY come back on and then an email saying that work finally had power. But several of my coworkers still have no power. They are understandably not happy.

Across from the missing WAFF 48 dopler
The gym finally got power back Tuesday as well. So little by little, for me, life is returning to normal. But for some it won't be for a while. Everyone at work realized we had no way to get in touch with each other when all of this was going on.

The line in Tennessee
There are some amazing stories of survival. Even in our office. And FEMA has said that Alabama is doing remarkably well at neighbors helping neighbors. When the radio stations (our only source of info for a while) couldn't get a hold of the Red Cross, they took matters into their own hands and let people call in with needs and others call in with help.

Anderson Hills Subdivision
But I'm okay despite living through what really felt like the beginning of a horror movie. It's quite surreal for NO ONE to have power. And to see signs written on poster board "we're open". And "we have generators".

the line at walmart when I was halfway through. It made 2 corners.
I can't imagine what Tuscaloosa looks like. Or Pleasant Grove.  Or McDonald Chapel. Or Cordova. Or Ruth/Arab. Or Hackleburg and Phil Campbell (where an EF5 went through). They are just so devastated. FEMA categorized all of this as Category 1 which is the same category as Katrina if that helps you imagine the scope of the damage. There were over 100 tornadoes come through Alabama last Wednesday. And there are so many small communities that are getting such a small amount of attention. Like Ruth and Phil Campbell. Hackleburg was BEGGING for volunteers yesterday and Tuscaloosa was turning them away.

If you want to give donations, I would suggest a faith based charity. They were all there before anyone else was. And after finding out how long it took (or is taking) for the Red Cross to get money to Haiti and Japan, I think it would be a better plan. My dad, being a Methodist minister, is fond of UMCOR, which is the United Methodist Church's disaster relief group. And please, try to help the smaller communities. Tuscaloosa, while it got hit hard, is getting the majority of the attention. But places like Phil Campbell were virtually wiped off the map and so few people are even aware.

And here's the coverage of the tornadoes if you would like to know more.

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