Terrible Tornados

Cross in a Tree Destroyed Trailer Smashed Truck

In April 2011 dozens of tornados swept across the state of Alabama, including Toni's home town of Pisgah. Pisgah had been hit by a deadly tornado only two years earlier. We arrived to provide some help to Toni's family and the neighboring community three days after the tornado's had hit. Luckily Toni's family was spared any injuries or major damage, however there were multiple fatalities in the county and dozens of homes had been obliterated. Toni had spent the previous two days collecting donations in Charlotte. We arrived in Pisgah with a U-Haul full of food and bottled water. Almost as importantly we brought gasoline, chain saws and an electric generator.

In the areas the tornados touched down, the devastation was total. I've never been very afraid of tornados figuring I lived in strong, well constructed houses. We'll call this the 'Three Little Pigs' fallacy. On this trip, I learned that if a tornado hits your front door the house is going to be obliterated. It doesn't matter if you live in a mobile home, stick-built or brick house. Whether you survive or not is completely outside of your control. In one house that had been leveled, you would have died if you took shelter in the half of the basement that had been sucked clean, but survived on the other half where paint cans still stood neatly stacked on the shelves.

The power of these winds is biblical. In one case the tornado had left a large tree standing in the backyard of an obliterated home. All the limbs had been sheared off about three feet from the trunk. The scouring action of the winds and debris had stripped the tree of all its bark. The limbs of the tree contained the remains of the house: a floor beam, washing machine and an upright piano! I kid you not, the tornado had blown the house apart and then lifted a piano twenty feet into the air!

The life and death verdicts are completely random. The grandfather and grandson in the house described above had survived by fleeing the house as it was lifted into the eye of the funnel and taken refuge in a car in the driveway. The house next door had only sustained light damage. A quarter mile away the only thing left of an entire family was a smudge of sheet metal pancaked up against a row of trees.

I was proud of Toni who worked so hard to help her home town. She spent two full days delivering the supplies we'd collected as well as, distributing other's supplies to those who couldn't travel to the distribution centers. She even led the National Guard troops to the areas of greatest damage so they could deliver ice and supplies.

Shovel in Tree

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