My dad, Ray, took this photo from the doorway of my parents' storm shelter. They live just north of Tuscaloosa, off in the woods and hills of west central Alabama. For those of you who have been living under a rock this past week, the southeastern US was devastated by a series of tornadoes that have claimed at least 210 lives - 36 of those in Tuscaloosa alone. Those numbers will likely climb as more areas are searched for survivors.
This tornado, the one in the picture, is not the one that struck Tuscaloosa. This one hit the small towns of Berry, Oakman, Cordova and Dora and wreaked havoc there. Berry is maybe 15 miles north of where my parents live, so the size of this particular funnel is obviously huge.
My parents and my niece who live on that hill, my grandparents and uncle who were in the valley just beyond them are all fine, as are their neighbors and friends. They are without power, and won't likely have any power restored until sometime next week, but they are alive...they have food and water and safe, dry places to sleep. My great-uncle and his family up in Cullman (also heavily damaged by the tornado) are fine, as well.
I'm so thankful.
The tornado that hit Tuscaloosa continued to the northeast toward Birmingham, where Dr. SmartyPants' mom, dad, brother and sister all live. My youngest niece, Anna lives there as well, with her dad, Will. All the Otts are accounted for, but I'm still waiting to hear about Anna and Will. I'm praying they are just without power and unable to charge cell phones.
***UPDATE*** Anna and her dad are fine, too! Yay!!
The storm continued on its path, to Georgia and Tennessee, where my sister found safe haven at her employer's home, and my niece and grand-niece weathered it fine as well.
It brought its hail and lightning and funnel clouds up to Knoxville, where we watched the weather fretfully and listened as gumball-sized hail hit the back windows and hunkered down to wait it out, all the while wondering what we saw as a benefit to this stupid open floor plan house with no interior rooms. I woke the boys from a deep sleep and shoved them into the pantry in the kitchen when our community's name was called out on the EAS.
We all made it through fine, too.
And I'm so thankful.
I was just in Tuscaloosa last week, helping my mom and dad, and I'm absolutely shocked and so saddened at what I've seen on the news of the devastation. Places I knew so well are simply gone. Landscapes that have stood for decades are completely altered. A town that took me from 17 to 30 and grew me up so well looks as if it were ripped apart. It will take a long time to recover, but I know they will, along with the other town so hard hit by this awful outbreak of tornadoes.
Pray for them. Donate blood. Consider giving to the Red Cross. They need it desperately.