May 3, 2011

Cullman Tornado 2011- Life Changing Events Over Here!

*This turned into a SUPER long post. Apologies.*
While I still may not be able to say, I have lived through a tornado, I came pretty dang close. 
Let me back up and say, I never check the weather. Ever. John had been telling me how bad it was going to get, and I just kept going on about my business. 
Wednesday, April 27th, I set my alarm to 4:45 to go workout.. out of pure laziness, I didn’t go- I could hear the wind and a little rain, so I snoozed. John ended up getting up at 5:00 to go ahead and go into work, so he could get there before the storms hit and he could get a head start on work, since we were planning on going to Huntsville that afternoon. 
Around 5:15, I hear the sirens going off in Hanceville, I get up and get in the shower- I was pretty disgusting and needed to wash my hair. I put a tweet out for anyone to call me if I needed to take cover- kind of as a joke. I get a text from Ashley after I have gotten out of the shower saying, “Probably not your best idea. Don’t get in the shower.” I try to turn on the tv, but stupid electronics don’t allow that to happen. I am cursing John. 
My phone rings. 
It’s my mom.
“Go wake up the girls and get in the bathroom, a tornado is hitting Hanceville.” 
I run and wake up the girls. Get them in the bathroom, I turn on the radio and then we lost power. 
It is pitch black in our house. 
I text Ashley. She tells me their barn is destroyed. And the power line is down, so we won’t be getting power back soon. I go to pack up the girls to go to moms, and notice we have a Bradford Pear down. 
As I am driving over to moms, I see it. Trees down across 31. The barn roof off of the man that I buy strawberries from. Trees on top of houses. 
A tornado definitely came through about 1/2 mile from our house. I kind of start to freak. 
We get to moms, John wants to go to Huntsville before the second wave of storms come through that afternoon. So, we go. We get caught in Huntsville with the sirens and take cover at a malls parking deck. 
We decided to make a break for home and the whole way home the weather is weird. 
Black clouds on the left. 
Black clouds on the right. 
But blue skies over the interstate. 
Almost like a beacon for us to get home. 
We get to Cullman around 2, and decide to go home and get a few more items since we will most likely be staying there without power at our house. 
We found out that a tornado ripped through downtown Hanceville, flattening most of it. 
John drops me back off at moms and heads back to work. 
I am not there long before getting dragged into the basement. 
I keep seeing tweets about people watching hit downtown Cullman. I tried to petition for James Spann, but I lost that battle. 
I tweeted, ” It’s here. Things just got real.” And then lost power, internet and cable. 
I walked outside with my step dad, and we kept staring at this dark black cloud towards the city limits- it was actually the tail end of the tornado. 
I get a text from John.
“We got hit.”
“My car is screwed.”
I can’t get a phone call out. I start getting frantic. I know he texted me so he must be okay, but I am honestly scared to death. 
I finally talk to him and all he is talking about is his car. How he can’t drive it and I will have to come get him. 
So, I decided to head on. As I am driving into town, it’s eerie. Nothing’s wrong with 278. Then, I hit Main Street. 
The gas station awning is completely turned over. 
I turned right, headed to Buettner’s, and I can see nothing but trees down. Cars everywhere. I want to scream at the traffic to get out of my way. I can’t turn down 7th because it’s nothing but trees, so I thought, “I will go up to John and Linda’s and park, make sure their houses are okay and then walk to Buettner’s.”
I turn down 9th. 
Trees down. Everywhere.
A man stops me and says it’s blocked.
I pointed to the trees. “That’s my In Laws! And my husbands grandmothers house! I’ve got to get to my husband, he is at Buettners!”
He says my MIL’s name and tells me their house is okay, but the little white house is gone. 
Paw Paw’s office. 
John’s grandfather’s law firm. One of the oldest houses in Cullman.
I go down as far as I can, shut the car off and start running. 
I ran through the check John and Linda’s and MeMe’s houses. I check on Richard, their neighbor and relative. And Paw Paw’s office, indeed has a tree through it.
I get to Buettner’s and half of it is missing.
Mostly from trees. 
I talked to my brother in law, Jay, who lives in Tuscaloosa. He wanted to make sure everyone was okay. 
He never tells me of the tornado headed towards Tuscaloosa. 
Once we round everyone up, make sure everyone has a safe place to go, we headed back to moms and hear about the tornado headed to Tuscaloosa. I called Jay. He told me they were at the stadium, in the locker room, but had gone up to the top to take pictures of it and it was huge. 
We don’t have power at moms. We went to bed with heavy hearts. How were our friends and family? 
Bill and I decide to go walk the city on Thursday morning… and we just thought the devastation on the west side of town was bad. It’s minor compared to the east side. 
This is Buettner’s.. I literally took pictures here last Saturday… and half of it is missing. 
John’s car. I know it doesn’t look like much damage, but the only piece on that entire car that isn’t scratched, is the sunroof. His windshield looks like it has bulletholes. Apparently, a garage door completely rolled over the thing. 

 Lumber yard damage.

 This is through town… mostly around First Baptist Church.. the side is all beat up because there is a tire store at the end of the block.

The east side is pretty much blocked off. You can’t get back there without a pass. From what I have seen, it’s terrible. Blocks are completely flattened. Churches gone. 

This is John’s families damage… trees completely uprooted. The white house is Paw Paw’s office. A tree smashed their storage shed. 
I am so thankful to say that I don’t know anything seriously injured through this. Hundreds dead and hundreds more missing, but everyone I know is safe. 

Leave a comment to Cullman Tornado 2011- Life Changing Events Over Here!

  1. I almost got teary eyed during this post. I remember all of those tweets you sent and was so thankful to hear each time y'all were okay! Still thinking of and praying for everyone affected by these storms. Thanks for the update and pics!

  2. What a nightmare! Glad you're ok!

  3. Horrible! I am so sorry but so thankful you and your family are okay! Prayers going up!

    Thanks for the update!

  4. How incredibly tragic for your state- we've been keeping everyone there in our prayers. Glad you and your family are okay!

  5. How frightening! I am so glad you're okay though!

  6. That is definitely some life changing stuff!! Glad everyone is alright!

  7. How scary! I'm so glad y'all are ok! Many prayers for your community.

  8. Wow this gave me goosebumps :(

  9. glad y'all are ok!

    It is crazy up there. I have some of these same pictures.

  10. I'm glad you have documented all of this. I'm also very happy you all are okay. Still sending prayers for everyone.

  11. Oh my goodness this is crazy!! So glad everyone is ok but definitely nerve wrattling! Thanks so much for sharing. These pictures are incredible

  12. Our prayers are with you and your family. I can't believe how much you traveled that day. I'm praying that your community rebuilds again

  13. Praying for you and your family as you rebuild everything. How scary. Hugs to you

  14. How devastating! So glad that you and your family are OK.

    Sending hugs and prayers!

  15. I'm so glad you are ok, that is so scary! Thanks for the update and stay safe!

  16. How scary…so good to hear you and your family are safe. Continued prayers for you all!

  17. OMG i just got goosebumps looking at these pictures. i heard about the tornados on the news but i didn't know anyone personally…until now.

    glad to hear that you and your loved ones are okay.

  18. OMG, I can't even begin to imagine what you guys went through. How scary! I'm glad your and your family are ok!

  19. Rachel, I wish I had some words of encouragement, of wisdom, but all I can say is, wow. Your photos are incredible. You did an amazing job of visually capturing some of the devastation and verbally narrating your trial. I'm glad that you are your loved ones are okay. My heart breaks for those that lost family, friends and homes. We are praying for Alabama!

  20. I know how I felt watching it online from so far away, I can't even imagine how you must have felt being in the middle of it all!! I hope the girls are taking it OK, it has to be a frightening experience for them too. The fact that your families are safe and accounted for are such a blessing!

  21. For the first year, every time I would get the girls & bring to Bham, they would always say “Look GiGi. The tordado bwoke those twees & those houses.” Yes girls it did. But you & your family are OK. And then I would silently pray a thank you:)

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