The day started out stormy. The morning was peppered with different tornado warnings, but none seemed very serious. During the first warning of the day, I sat on the couch and programmed the NOAA weather radio I had purchased the night before. The irony of waiting for a tornado warning to program it was not lost on me. The meteorologists had predicted several rounds of severe weather throughout the day. After the first round of storms had passed, I went ahead to work, planning to leave a little early.
I tried to concentrate at work, but I have always been fascinated by the weather. For every spring severe system, I had tracked the weather eagerly – multiple browser windows open with radars, weather blogs, and twitter reports. Somehow, I managed to get a document finished and to the editor to edit. At one point, we were under a tornado warning and were in an engineering lab for around 45 minutes. I was fidgety in the lab. I wanted to know what was going on outside. By the time that warning had expired, the sky was sunny again. The sun was an atypical bad sign of things to come.
I wanted to be home with my husband and puppy. I had a meeting with my boss at 2:00. I remember him telling me “you’re safer here than at home” when we were talking about the weather. Still, I wanted to be home. At 3:30, I decided to leave. I had a bad feeling from looking at the radar that I would be stuck there all night if I waited any longer. I told my boss that I would come in early the next day to make up for it. When I was 10 minutes from home, I heard that on the radio that I had 30 minutes to get home before a storm would hit.
Clouds were building in the southeast. I ran inside, changed into pj pants and a tshirt, and went to the living room to watch the weather. My mom called and said “get in the closet”. She said they could see debris falling from the sky. I was a little nervous, but I still had the attitude that nothing bad would happen. We’re used to storms in the south. Usually the blow through weakly and without a lot of damage. M and I hadn’t made up our mind where our safe place was. We just decided to go to the back hallway. I brought a pillow, a flashlight, Bailey, my phone, and my laptop. I had to beg M to come with me.
The rain was first. The satellite went out with the rain, and it was quiet, quiet, quiet. Looking back, the silence was ominous. At the time, though, I had no inkling of what was to come. Suddenly, we heard a loud roar. I laid down in the hallway. Next, came the awful sound of shattering glass. I thought “we’ve been hit.” I laid as flat as I could on top of Bailey puppy. My husband threw himself on top of me. I cried, prayed, and yelled at M to cover his head. Words fail me right now as I try to describe just how loud it was. There was a shrill, screeching sound on top of the roar. Wood cracked. Rain pounded. Wind howled. Unknown things hit the house with thuds that still haunt me today. I had no idea what was happening. I thought the house was going to fall down around us and that we would be killed. I prayed. M held me. I cried. Bailey was calm. After what seemed like an eternity, the wind was quiet. M had been stretching forward to look around the corner. He had told me that it was the windows that were shattered. I have honestly never been more scared in my entire life.
When the worst was over, M left the hallway to look out the back door. We saw destruction behind us. M kept saying “look those houses are gone.” I was in shock and denial at this point. I tried to call my parents, but there was no cell service. The power had gone out. I sent out a frantic tweet that we were okay, knowing that my sister has my tweets sent as messages to her phone. A few seconds later I saw one from her saying they were okay, too. I kept thinking the tornado was going to come back. M opened the back door. The garage was covered in broken glass and the garage door was sucked inward. We moved to the bathroom. Water begin to poor in through the vents. The ceiling cracked and more water came in. We moved to the laundry room. I think at some point I was able to talk on the phone to my dad for a few seconds. He said he would come our way as soon as he could. I screamed “No!” I wanted him to be safe at home. M and I kept repeating to each other that it was okay and we were okay.
To be continued…