Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our tornado story

Picture taken by a friend's cousin with her cell phone, this is IN Sanford.

Let me preface this "story" with a few things:
1. We are fine, no damage to our house.
2. Our "story" is so minor compared to the victims, I'm strictly posting it for friends who have asked.
3. We are thanking God for our safety and praying for the victims of this devastation across the entire South.
4. Thank you to the friends and family who did check in on us. Sanford made the national AND international news, and we appreciate those who were concerned for our safety.

To start with, here is a map I made to help you follow where we were. Notice that the black dots (aka tornadoes) are exactly where we live, go to church, and where we were that day. I didn't put them there, that's is truly where they were. *Shudder*

Saturday, April 16-
John & Kim Haak were out east visiting and brought Chandon up to visit us. We met up with some of my friends in Cary so that Chandon had some kids his own age to play with. The weather was rainy and overcast so after lunch and playing the Haaks, Chandon, Kaylee and I went to the Museum of Life & Science in Downtown Raleigh. (My John was at work in Moore County, 1.5 hrs south of Raleigh) On our way to the museum we heard the Emergency Broadcast Signal come across the radio station. (Side note: here in NC, that EBS is quite common to hear, not like in CA where it's always "this is only a test".) It stated that there was a tornado watch in Lee, Chatham and Moore counties. We live in Lee, but were in Wake County so other than feeling sorry that the puppies were getting rained on back home, I didn't think much of it. Infact, I even stated that Lee county never gets tornadoes that touch down and because they almost always hit Johnston county which is a wide open, rural, farm land area. Whereas Lee County is more populated and mostly wooded areas. So we went ahead onto the museum. We hadn't been inside very long when an announcement came over the loud speaker saying that everyone needed to come to the first floor (we were on the the 4th floor of course) due to inclement weather. Once on the 1st floor, a few minutes went by and another announcement stated that we needed to be evacuated to the basement due to tornadoes. Everyone filed down stairways in a calm manner, I was impressed that no one (to my knowledge) freaked out. We stayed underground for 30-40 minutes until the storms had passed.

Hanging out in the basement

As we left the museum we witnessed just some of the devastation in downtown Raleigh. Many, many oak trees just snapped in half. Picture those beautiful oak trees you see in movies with the rope swing off a big branch, knowing that the tree had been there for hundreds of years...those kind of trees were snapped like toothpicks. Metal roofs were mangled and displaced. Trees had landed on cars. Houses were damaged. It was shocking.

Downtown Raleigh, Picture from

About this time, John called to see where we were (we were headed out of Raleigh back to the Haak's hotel). He told me that the tornado had touched down in Sanford and Broadway (our tiny town) and that Lowes had been destroyed. I didn't quite believe it since the weather looked pretty decent out at this point. But when I tried calling our neighbors and the phone lines were down, I started to worry. Mostly about our neighbors and our dogs though. I knew we could replace the house and belongings. But I was terrified at the reasons for why I couldn't get through to Ray & Linda, and also that Gunner and Gauge had possibly been tossed around in the tornado. Indeed Lowes is gone. And when I saw gone...this is what I mean:

That is the roof...on the ground.

That trailer was in the parking lot originally.
Pictures by Ray & Linda. Ray is our neighbor and works for Lowes. Fortunately he was not working on Saturday. Can you believe that no one was killed in this mess?

I dropped the Haaks off at their hotel and rushed to get home. John left work and headed home as well. He was traveling north, and I was headed south (for the most part, I'll spare you with the exactness). I made it as far as Misty Creek Ranch which had been destroyed (see earlier blog post) but the roads were closed. A local neighbor with a chainsaw told me that it looked like someone had dumped a bucket of lincoln logs on the road for a mile stretch and that the ranch was gone. Heartbreaking! It was going to be a 2-3 hr wait for the road to be cleared, and even once that was cleared we didn't know how far we'd get after that.

Picture from

Pictures by Kate

The cell towers had been knocked down, not to mention everyone trying to call each other, so cell service was hit or miss. John and I finally got each other on our cells. He was stuck in Sanford with reports that from downtown Sanford all the way up to Broadway had been destroyed. So he couldn't make it home either. We both back tracked, got to the main highway and met up at a fire station. In this awesome map, the blue lines are the first attempts at getting home. The green line is once we got past the ranch and could get home. It was a lot of driving!

After chatting with the fire fighters we decided to go eat dinner and go to Walmart for some flashlights, snacks, water...a few things to keep us going if we came home to a demolished house...while we waited for the roads to be cleared.

By the time we headed back home, it was dark but the devastation along the way was still evident. Once past the Misty Creek Ranch rubble, it was clear sailing for the next mile home and we pulled in to our driveway with great relief. The only thing out of place was a potted plant that was upside down. As we've learned, this is evident of a tornado vs. hurricane. Had this been hurricane wind destruction, everyone would have had damage. A tornado touches down, takes out whatever is in it's path but leaves things just on the other side of the road untouched. Absolutely bizarre.

We didn't have power for 3 days and lost all of our food in our fridge and freezer, but we're not complaining. Food is easy to replace and in all honestly, the fridge needed a good cleaning anyways. Kaylee even helped clean! I love that she copies me, now just to get her to use some elbow grease and we'll be good to go!

We drive through the carnage every time we have to go somewhere. People lost their homes, some homes were flattened to the ground and that is no exaggeration. There are stories of people being in their mobile homes that lifted off the ground, spun around, and landed back on the ground. There have been deaths but it is amazing that there haven't been more.

That is the foundation of a more house. Picture by Kate.

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During the last few weeks of pregnancy, Kate listened to Brad Paisley's new song "Then". She didn't just listen to it a few times, she obsessively played the song on repeat, learned every word, and sung it at the top of her lungs while driving. Then one day a few weeks after Kaylee was born, Kate was driving with Kaylee by themselves. Kaylee began to cry...then scream. It didn't matter how much Kate reassured her, pulled over to make sure something wasn't wrong, or attempted to hold the pacifier in place with one arm backwards while driving. It finally occurred to Kate that maybe Kaylee wants mommy to sing to her (although no one else would want this!). So Kate put track #4 on and began to sing. Kaylee immediately calmed down. Low and behold, it's not even mommy's singing that Kaylee likes! It's Brad's!