I've put off posting about this for three days because I really didn't know what to say. I still kinda don't, but the laundry's done, the spaghetti is simmering, and the laundry soap is prepped and drying outside so... I guess I gotta blog about something.
Let me start with a confession - I've had a more than healthy fear (terror) or tornadoes since I was a kid. They literally haunt my dreams. I have nightmares where I'm either running from them or I'm poking along, turn a corner, and am face to face with them. The tornado siren is so close to my house I nearly went deaf the first weekend after I bought the house and it kept going off. I don't take that siren lightly. When they start talking about tornado threats on TV and use the word, "warning," I start a mild panic. When the siren goes off I'm usually reminding myself to breathe. I haven't had to deal with that since Kaycie was born because we've had an unusually quiet year and a half. Until now.
Normally, Friday morning is when I grocery shop. We get our weekly cash out of the bank on Friday's so I like to go ahead and get it out of the way before I spend it over the weekend. This week it turned out that Thursday night we had a milk emergency (Kaycie loves her milk!) so after she was in bed I made a quick trip to the store and picked up enough stuff to get us through the weekend. Since I didn't have to worry about shopping Friday, Greg sent me a message that morning asking if I wanted to have lunch. Sure, but I wanted to check on the weather first. It was supposed to storm...
At that point (around 9:30) I hadn't turned on the TV or paid much attention. I saw from the weather ap on my phone that we were under a tornado watch so I was cautious. A little rain doesn't bother me but there's no point in hauling Kaycie out in really nasty weather if I don't have to. It hadn't started raining yet but it was about to.
I turned on the TV and all 4 local stations were doing weather break-ins. That was my first clue. One of the weather guys started talking about a possible tornado in the Port Gibson area. Shortly after he said that our tornado siren went off. I grumbled, because we are nowhere near Port Gibson, and hauled my ducklings into the bathroom. None of them wanted to go. Casper is particularly not fond of the evil chamber of bath-torture.
The siren went off, we piled out, and I started getting ready to go out for lunch. It looked like a thin line of nasty weather heading over from Vicksburg, but if it moved through quick we could still make lunch, even if it was a little bit late. A few minutes later the weather guy started saying that there was something bad headed toward Clinton, and named off Huntcliff subdivision and Northside Drive. That got my attention. I'm within walking distance of Huntcliff and can see Northside from my front yard. I said a few bad words and piled my shorties back into the bathroom. I'd already stashed my camera equipment and a snack for Kaycie in there.
After we got comfy in the bathroom the siren went off. I was more than a little nervous at this point. I sent Greg a message telling him we were hanging in the bathroom because David (Hartman, one of our local weather gurus) had said mean things. Moments later the siren stopped and we piled out again. The satellite had gone out in the living room so I didn't know what was going on exactly. Then the lights flickered. And flickered. And flickered. And finally went out. Crap. Told Greg we might be coming for lunch just to get out of the dark house. About five minutes later the power was back, flickering a couple of more times before settling out. I honestly believe this is when the tornado was crossing into Easthaven and Clinton Blvd, AFTER the sirens went off. That's one of the scarier parts for me. We were out of the bathroom in the living room waiting on the satellite to reboot so we could see what was going on...
Then my phone rang. It was my mother-in-law checking on us. She said a tornado had been on the ground in Clinton, near I20 and Springridge Road. That's only a couple of miles from us. May have hit the Home Depot. Well dang it. I was going to go there for plants later that afternoon. Guess not...
By the time I got off the phone I had a pile of text messages from people. Before I could answer those my phone was ringing again. This went on for an hour or so. In between calls and texts I caught some news coverage. Damage. Lots of it on the south side of Springridge. The reporter points across the interstate and says the twister continued across those trees toward Highway 80...
Um, that's a little closer to home.
As the day went on I stayed close to the TV. The more I saw the more nauseous I got. I had no idea. The mentioned Easthaven subdivision, a mile or so away by car, less than a mile as the crow (or tornado) flies. Then I saw the video posted on Facebook and the cold sweats started. It was big. And mean. And it was soooo close to my baby girl. And I had no idea.
I got more upset about it as the day wore on and ultimately had to turn off the TV. The last round of storms had come through and Clinton was given the all clear. I didn't want to see any more right then. I was terrified of how close the call was. Less than a mile.
Today was the first time Clinton Blvd was open since the incident. There were some big trees crossing the road and we'd had to detour to Highway 80 all weekend. The damage at Easthaven and some businesses and trees in town is incredible. I don't understand how there weren't more fatalities. It's bad. The cemetery on Clinton Blvd at the train bridge, lovingly referred to as the "curve of death," was in shambles. Huge old trees uprooted, ripped apart. Some of the old funeral home buildings were heavily damaged. You can trace the track across Clinton Blvd right there at the bridge. Way too close for my comfort.
All I could think was what if.
What if I hadn't run to the store Thursday night. We would have been somewhere on Hwy 80 when it came through.
What if I hadn't paid attention to the weather and decided to head on to get Greg for lunch. We would have been on Clinton Blvd, probably near where it crossed.
What if it hadn't taken a right turn at I20...
As I thought about it over the weekend. I don't think God "saved me" from that storm. I don't think He had a hand in guiding that tornado at all, because if He did I feel confident it wouldn't have destroyed so much, so many homes, so many businesses. I think He didn't stop it, and I think maybe He had a hand in keeping some people out of harms way. But He didn't cause it. And he didn't stop it from happening. Just as we have free will, natural disasters will happen and innocent people will suffer, but hopefully grow stronger as they rebuild.
Emergency workers and aid volunteers have been swarming Clinton all weekend, doing a great job. Police did an incredible job of patrolling and policing effected neighborhoods. Power was back for much of the city by Saturday night. Streets were open and businesses that didn't have damage were up and running Saturday. It makes me proud to live here.