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the tornadoes

I don’t think any of us knew it would be so bad.

Last Wednesday, we awoke to news that the Chattanooga area was in for some bad weather.

Rich told me that we were under a tornado warning, but when a morning storm came and went pretty quickly (albeit strong), we didn’t think too much about the news that more tornados were on the way.

So, I went to bible study at Briana’s house like usual. As I got to the St. Elmo area, it became clear to me that the storm that had come through (just an hour before) had been MUCH worse than I knew. I pulled up the road where Briana lives and passed several homes that had been crushed by huge trees. They were completely destroyed and unlivable. I think my jaw may have hung open for a minute while I slowed to take it all in.

Arriving at Briana’s house by an alternate route (because there were huge trees down and blocking the normal way), I realized that the storm system was severe. Briana had no power, and many of the girls hadn’t made it to study because of the storm. We all started to take everything a bit more seriously at that time, and once our time together ended, we all headed back to our own homes to prepare for the next storm cell (which also called for tornadoes along with some golf ball sized hail).

The girls and I grabbed a quick lunch with Rich and he returned to the office and we came home. By the time we pulled into the driveway, the skies were turning an ominous grey and the wind was scary strong. I called Rich and asked him to come home before the second storm hit. Thankfully he did, and there was a flurry of activity prepping for storm #2, which was supposed to be even stronger than the first. We grabbed flashlights and batteries, found candles and matches, and gathered blankets for taking to the basement. Rich pulled our new Pilot into the garage so that it wouldn’t suffer hail damage.

We didn’t have to wait long for the weather to turn bad. At 3 pm, as I was nursing Sierra, a huge clap of thunder and lightening made me jump up and yell that it was time to go to the garage. Rich grabbed Alana, I held Sierra, and we ran downstairs to wait for the storm to pass. I think we were only downstairs for about 20 minutes. The storm, loud, windy, and violent, had passed quickly and left little damage from what we could see.

Thankful to be done with (what we thought was) the worst storm of the day, we relaxed and started coordinating dinner with our good friends, the Holritz’s. Their power was off from the morning storm, so we were going to have them over for dinner. But not much later, suddenly, our power was off as well. So we started texting about “plan B.” We decided on Carabba’s at 5:45pm. We were excited for a dinner out since neither of our homes had power, and we always love our dinner dates together.

Rich and I looked at the weather forecast for the remainder of the day (on Rich’s iPhone), and saw that another storm was going to be passing through that evening. What we DIDN’T know was that this 3rd storm cell of the day was going to be the worst. With no power, we were not able to watch the news and simply has no idea that tornadoes and hail were on the way again.

We left for Carabba’a at 5:30 and as we were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant, we noticed that the place was abuzz with chatter about the impending storm. Servers were nervously pacing and many of them were perched at a side door, looking up at the darkening sky. One motioned with his arm in a circular motion as if he was seeing a tornado outside. We looked at Nathan and Amber and we all decided that if things got even more scary, we’d all crawl under the table to protect the kids and ourselves. By this time, we knew that storm #3 of the day was going to be anything but a normal thunderstorm.

Our server seemed intent on doing her job well, saying little about the storm while she took our drink and dinner orders. We were incredibly distracted by all the servers looking outside and we couldn’t help but wonder what they were seeing. Everyone was a little tense. Nathan jumped up and checked out the scene for us, and shortly after he got back to the table, we all straightened as we heard what sounded like fireworks. I remember catching the eye of a server who looked scared and confused by the sound.

Within seconds, guests and servers had piled into the restaurant lobby to watch almost-as-large-as-a-baseball sized hail fall from the sky. I wasn’t close enough to the hail to take a photo of it, but I wanted to! I also wanted to live through the night, so I quickly headed back to the table, away from the danger, where Amber was holding a trembling Alana 🙁

The rest of the evening we spent waiting out the storm, soothing Alana, eating our dinner, catching up on each others’ latest, and calming down a bit. We were all so thankful that the storm did not seem to be worsening. It was bad, and it was definitely scary, but we never felt the need to dodge under the table!

We drove back home to the electricity still being out, and realized that a massive tree had fallen into our yard from our neighbor’s yard, crushing our fence and coming just inches from our back porch. It took only one glance to realize that we had MUCH to be thankful for. Our home was not destroyed, like we would soon come to find out that hundreds of peoples’ homes were. And we were safe. We would also find out that several hundred people had passed away in the tornadoes.

Ever since the storms hit last Wednesday, stories and photos and videos have surfaced of the destruction. It’s all been so heartbreaking, and all so close to home. The last I read, the tornado death toll was at 337, making it the second-deadliest twister day in U.S. history. There were dozens of tornadoes on Wednesday, but the most severe was an EF-4 with speeds up to 190 MPH. It was 300 yards wide and traveled 35 miles. And so again, we are thankful for each other and for an intact home.

We have been praying for the tornado victims…people who have lost loved ones, their homes, their possessions. And I am in the process of trying to figure out how I can help as a mom of two. Donations, I’m thinking.

So our power was off from last Wednesday until last night (Monday) and it was so exhausting leaving the house every time we needed a shower, meal, laundry done, etc. Especially with two kids. And with Rich out of town to shoot a wedding. Obviously in light of all that was going on, this was simply an inconvenience, and one that I dealt with in that perspective.

If you’re interested, this article is the best one I’ve seen to summarize the tornadoes and their destruction, with video footage throughout the article: Wednesday, April 27th Tornados.

Now it is time to rebuild the broken parts of the city and other hard hit cities in surrounding states, and to pray for everyone involved.


  • Michelle Richards - May 3, 2011 - 10:20 pm

    Heather, what a scary experience to go through! I am so thankful you and Rich and your family were safe!

  • […] few weeks ago I blogged about the series of tornadoes that came through the Chattanooga area. I had mentioned that we had a large tree down in our […]

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