Sunday, May 1, 2011


Let me start by saying we are blessed!

I just thought this week was going to be a hectic week with 2 open houses, 4 baseball games, gymnastics, a Leadership Showcase and all the other activities that go along with ending a school year.  Little did I know just how crazy it was about to get.

Jody and I were awoken by the tornado sirens around 4:30 am on Wednesday morning.  They were predicting storms all day long but nothing was supposed to get really bad until afternoon.  Schools all around us were going in on a delayed start...ours went in at a normal time.  It wasn't even raining when I dropped everyone off at school.  Early morning we got the news that we would be letting out at 1:30 pm due to the storms headed our way.  Shortly after that we heard tornado sirens in the area and were asked to assume our tornado positions.  A few hours later, we were in our tornado safe places yet again.  Around 2:00 pm we got all the children at my school home safely.  [Jody picked up our kids from 3 different schools and got them safely to our house between storms.]  I was about to leave school when Jody called and said they were predicting a tornado to hit the school where I work in 16 minutes.  I decided to ride one more round at school.  This was the scene from the principal's office before we closed ourselves in my office...


A tornado never touched down near me.  As soon as that storm passed I booked it home.  A few hours later we were all in our basement waiting for yet another super cell to pass through.  There were tornado spottings all around us but none in our neighborhood.

A short while later all the power went out.  I didn't think much of it, assuming it was a temporary thing.  We gathered up all the flashlights we could find before it became dark. 

A few minutes later we heard a different type of siren.  One we had never heard before.  Suddenly we hear this voice saying "There has been a chemical leak in your area.  Please evacuate the area immediately."  We started throwing essentials in a bag.  We were about to leave when our neighbors pulled back up.  They had called 911 and were told that the wrong button was pushed.  They should have pushed the tornado siren instead.  Nice!

By that time it was past supper and still no power.  Taco Wednesday with no stove was out, so we rode out to my in-laws to eat grilled hot dogs.

Before we went to bed the power was still not on and we were hearing that one of the main lines at the power plant had been destroyed.  No one in the surrounding cities had power either.  We kept hearing it could be at least 5 days before power would be restored.

Wednesday night we were still able to use our cell phones as means of communication.  I saw a few pictures on Facebook of the storms that ripped through the state.  The images were horrific.

I had downloaded The Help on the iPad during Spring Break...


Thankfully the iPad was fully charged and I had a couple of chapters left to read.

Thursday morning we awoke to No Service on our cell phones and no sign of power.  Our only communication with the outside world was this...


The people on the radio kept describing the damage that was done to our state.  Entire communities were wiped out.  Tuscaloosa [my college town where I spent 4 glorious years] suffered extensive damage.  It was driving me crazy that I couldn't see it for myself!

Jody got home from work early afternoon on Wednesday and we decided to evacuate until Monday.  School had already been cancelled until at least Tuesday.  Simple things like gas, ice, milk and fresh food were extremely hard to come by.  So for our family it made sense to evacuate.  It seemed like everyone else was leaving as well. 

We cleaned out all the freezers and refrigerators.  They had been without power for 24 hours so we knew everything was ruined.  We gave our neighbors the numbers were we could be reached.  We threw some things in a bag...


...and headed out.  Our original plan was to head to the cabin on Smith Lake.  When we got to the grocery store about 20 minutes away from the cabin we realized they were running off generators.  The owner said everything in the direction of the cabin was running off generators too.  We made the decision to head to my sister and brother-in-laws in Birmingham.

These were some of the scenes along the interstate between Cullman and Birmingham...




Interstate signs were down, trees were ripped away from their trunks and huge poles were bent to the ground.

When we got to Stacey's we were finally able to see all the damage we had been hearing about.  It was devastating to see these images...


This was the Krispy Kreme in Tuscaloosa.  I can't tell you how many times in college I pulled through there just because the Hot Now sign was flashing.  All this damage was so close to campus and so many places I frequented during my college years were destroyed.

Several of my sorority sisters still live in the Tuscaloosa area.  Thankfully they all survived.  A child I use to babysit lost her apartment, car and everything she owns.  She and her dog made it out alive.  I have seen their pictures and videos.  I  have heard their stories.  My heart breaks for them.  I realize how much worse off my family could be.

We got the call Friday morning [while watching the Royal Wedding] that we had power back at our house.  So we decided we would head back home that afternoon. 

Mary Reese was dying to go to school with Aunt Stacey.  [She teaches Kindergarten in Hoover, so Mary Reese was excited to see what her class was doing.]  She packed her lunch and headed to school...


When Banks, Owen and I arrived, we found her at a table doing work just like the rest of Aunt Stacey's students...


Owen made himself right at home...


We went to lunch with her class...


Banks was thrilled it was Pizza Sticks with Dipping Sauce Day!

After lunch was Math.  Her class was trying to come up with all the ways to make the number 6 by adding 2 numbers.  Then it was time to play Buzz...


Banks won!  I love all the expressions on their faces.  I think they all just realized that Banks was going to win!  We walked her class to PE and headed back to Aunt Stacey's.  Jody and David picked us up a Davenport's Pizza before we headed back north.

On our way home, we passed tons of utility trucks heading south to help with the relief effort...


Then Jody decided to break the rules.  He wanted to see the damage to downtown Cullman [a town about 30 miles south of us].  Here are some of the images we were able to see...









We made it safely home to our house that still has a roof and walls.  We are truly blessed because it could have been so much worse. 

It is still not back to normal around here.  Not everyone in our city or area has gotten their power restored.  One block down from us is still running on generators.  One side of the street behind us has power but the other side does not. Our next door neighbors are still without cable [we have satellite].  We had to go to 3 different grocery stores Friday night to find a gallon of milk.  [Try explaining to your 2 year old that there is no milk.]

Not all of the schools have power.  We have not hear any word on school past Monday.  2011 has been one crazy year.  We missed 4 days earlier in the year due to snow.  So far we have lost 3 days because of the storm.  We have only had a handful of weeks were we actually went to school for the full 5 days.

On the bright side, we have spent our days outside visiting with neighbors. All the kids have been playing outside. Everyone truly came together to help each other out!

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