Tuesday, February 21, 2012

January 23, 2012

Alabama is known for it's crazy weather, and this year has really gotten off to a crazy start. After experiencing all the tornadoes on April 27, I've learned to take the warnings more seriously. The local weathermen had been talking about the possibility of overnight thunderstorms and possible tornadoes for the night of January 22- the morning of January 23. I kept thinking how crazy that sounded to have tornadoes in January and it didn't really feel all that warm that day; but if the local weathermen say its going to happen, then we need to be prepared. We don't have a weather radio yet, and they haven't released a good weather warning app yet for my kindle, so the only thing we had was to go to bed with the tv on ABC so if James Spann broke in, we would be ready. Since it was  a Sunday night, I stayed up later than normal and by the time I got in the bed at midnight, they had already broke in on the tv; not because we were under warnings yet, but because he wanted to keep us updated as early as possible. When I finally fell asleep, it actually looked like things weren't that bad. For some reason I woke up sometime around 3:00-3:30am.I have no idea why since I didn't hear any sirens going off, but I did and when I saw the tv, Tuscaloosa was under a tornado warning. Since storms from Tuscaloosa can either come our way or go my parents and my brother's way, I decided to stay up and pay attention. A few minutes later he said that the people of Pleasant Grove needed to take shelter because it was headed their way. I texted my Pleasant Grove friends hoping they would get the message and head to the basement, but come to find out, they were already down there. There was a tornado on the ground because it had done some damage in the Oak Grove community. Thankfully it looked like this storm wasn't heading our way but it was heading toward my parents. I texted my mom and told her to keep an eye on the weather. Thankfully she was up and already watching. A few minutes later, James Spann said it looked like there was a debris ball on the radar heading toward the Grayson Valley area. That's when I got really scared. My parents headed to the basement. I told my mom I would text her when it was all clear since they had lost power. Once they were given the all clear, I texted her, but didn't get an answer. I didn't worry too much though because the basement of their house does not have the best cell phone reception, but when the news started talking about severe damage in Center Point and Grayson Valley, I panicked. I got up and called her and thank God she answered. They were fine. They could hear the tornado though so we knew it was close by. At one point,my dad got nosy and looked out the window. He said everything was so calm, but that he could hear the tornado so he went back down stairs. Once daylight hit, pictures from the damaged areas were starting to be shown on the news.It was unreal to see those images on the tv. The town where I grew up, Center Point, had severe damage from an F-3 tornado. When they showed the images from Center Point Parkway, it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't believe that the place where I grew up was so unrecognizable. All those childhood memories were wiped away in a matter in minutes. Then more reports from the Grayson Valley/Clay area started to surface. Neighborhoods were completely wiped out. These neighborhoods were less than  a mile from parents house. My parent's house is the last one in the neighborhood. Next to their house are some woods. I'm not sure exactly how far but I remember when they bought that house, the realtor said that it was 60 acres and that there was a girls detention center on the other side. Since then, a neighborhood has been built next to that girls school and half of that neighborhood was flattened. The tornado was so close, not only could they hear the tornado, but my aunt (who also lives in that neighborhood) could hear the exact moment when the tornado tore through the Georgebrook community. I am so thankful that my family is ok. I'm not sure how they got so lucky not once, but twice, but I am very thankful that they did. My mom volunteers with the Disaster Relief team with the Birmingham Baptist Association so she had the opportunity to go and help feed all the workers. Since she was so busy helping, she hadn't had a chance to see the storm damage and to see just how close it was to them. The weekend after the storms, we rode around Center Point and Clay to show her the damage.
 Driving down Old Springville Road

 Georgebrook (this is the neighborhood right next to my parents)

 Steeplechase/Polo Downs

 This was a house

 So was this

 Look at all the trees down on the hill!

 Debris in Pilgrim's Rest

 More from Old Springville Road

 Center Point (driving on Erwin Hills)

 The 4-way stop on Erwin Hills (it used to be covered with trees)

 Just past Tupelo Road on Sun Valley Road

 There used to be a ton of trees in front of this house

It just breaks my heart to see all of these images. Seeing the damage in person is really heart breaking. Please continue to pray for the people of these communities as they try to rebuild their lives and prepare for the upcoming crazy Alabama Spring weather.

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