This is what I woke up to this morning. Well this and a squealing, happy baby. I am loving that Whit wakes up happy now!
Anyhoo, if you live in the South, you take this stuff seriously. Or at least you should, and here's why:
That is the tornado that wiped out a lot of Tuscaloosa (where Ben's dad and step-mom live) on April 27, 2011. And here's the ones that hit North Alabama, where most of our friends live, on the same day.
I have to be honest and tell you that was one of the scariest days ever for me and we weren't in immediate danger. Sure, we had tornado watches in effect for our area, but that was nothing in comparison. I was watching the weather to make sure we didn't go into a tornado warning suddenly, when the local news started showing the feed from Tuscaloosa because of the great video they were getting. At first I was in awe, and then when I started seeing debris in it I realized that it was in the center of town and I just sat down and cried. Then the cells in North Alabama start popping up, and in Birmingham (more friends), and in Meridian (my family). It was incredible and incredibly stressful. Around Harvest, AL was probably the worst because I would see friends posting on Facebook that their cell phones weren't working right and they couldn't call or text, but they could see posts on Facebook. I was going back and forth with two girls from high school (one of whom I wasn't really friends with) about when it looked okay for them to come out of their safe places and when to go back.
In the weeks after it was amazing to see people helping people. Ben and I gathered donations and drove them down once the restrictions to outsiders were lifted. We wanted to help clean up in the harder hit areas, but volunteers weren't allowed in until much later. A group of our friends came up and hung out for a bit and took advantage of our electricity, since it took them over a week to get it back. Even the news stations in Huntsville were broadcasting with backup generators and very little light. Occasionally I would get on their website to watch, it was so... interesting? heartwarming? awesome? I love how persistent humans are in the face of adversity.
But all of that taught us a very important lesson. One, don't underestimate Nature. And two, be prepared! For that week, many friends had a hard time. Many of them didn't have non-perishable food that they could cook without electricity, water, a way to charge their cell phones, extra gas (which apparently people go nuts for in an emergency, even if there's no where to go), basically no one was prepared to be without power for an extended amount of time. Everyone has candles and flashlights, but that only goes so far. Thankfully, many restaurants gave away food for free. I heard of a couple of places that, since the food was about to go bad anyway, they had a huge cookout and gave away what they had.
In fact, this is reminding me I need to restock our emergency stores. And clean the bathtub. Looks like that's where we'll all be sleeping tonight!