April 27, 2011 is a day that I don't think I will ever forget. As I'm sure all of you know there was a huge outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather all across the Southern United States. I live in NE Tennessee and my family was very fortunate to avoid the worst of it. I thank God for bringing us through safely and I pray for those that still need help as it seems tornado season has really just begun.
I have never been so scared or felt so unprepared in all of my life as I did that night. I knew the weather was going to be bad - we don't have cable television, but I kept seeing severe weather alerts pop up online and I was also in cell phone contact with my parents and sister who live on the other side of town. I was actually signed into Facebook watching as all of my friends were posting about the weather where they lived. I remember the storm getting worse and worse as it came closer - the thunder and lightning seemed almost simultaneous - there was no time to count the seconds between the flash and the sound.
Then came the hail. It started out like normal hail - ping, ping, ping - it sounded like little marbles hitting the roof and bouncing off. And then it just kept getting louder, I thought for sure the windows were going to break any moment - it sounded as if someone were taking billiard balls and smashing them into the roof. Keep in mind I live on the top floor of an old house that was turned into apartments - I did not feel safe. And just as I thought it couldn't get any worse - that's when the electricity went out. In my first few moments of panic I realized that I didn't know where any of our flashlights were, didn't know where our candles were, and even if I did - I didn't know where the matches were at. It got so bad that David said we needed to go downstairs into the hallway. The entrance to our apartment is on the first floor and we didn't have any basement to go to so we went to the lowest place we could. David is originally from Florida and lived through hurricanes growing up so when he told me to go downstairs I really got nervous. Huddled in the hallway listening to those awful sounds I admit I cried and I prayed - aloud. I realized how unprepared I really was. I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I was wearing flip flops and I thought if we should have to leave the house I would need tennis shoes. When the lights went out I had set my cell phone down who knows where and I had no idea where my car keys were if I should need those as well.
Here are some of the pictures that I took that night (can you believe I had my camera strapped around my wrist the entire time?). There were three sets of hail storms that went through our area. After the second one we left to go be with friends who were gathering downtown - just the thought of big sturdy multi-story brick buildings made me feel safe - that's not to say that they were just that they made me feel that way. This first picture is outside of the apartment - you can't see it in the picture, but it looked as if it had snowed - the entire ground was white, there was no grass to be seen. And of course I was still in my flip flops so it felt like walking on marbles.
This picture is sometime after 3 am when the storm was done and we felt safe enough to come home. The hail is mostly gone, but it looks like a tree went through our back porch.
And below is the next morning - the driveway was still covered.
The view in between our two cars.
These are some shots that I took 04/28/11 while driving through the neighborhood to view some of the damage. This is someones trampoline wrapped around a telephone pole.
A crushed car.
And that is a very large tree that fell straight through a house. I don't know the owner's personally, but I have a friend who does and she says they had both just gone to bed when the tree fell so were not anywhere near that part of the house. Thank God!
The worst hit area close to where I live was Glade Springs Virginia. If you look on youtube there are multiple videos of the destruction. It's sad because you see houses and businesses that you've driven by a million times before and they're just not there anymore. They're gone.
Here is a flickr album of Glade Springs. These are hard to look at.
This page gives more detail about how many tornadoes there were that night and where they actually touched down and traveled to.
In the end the only damage we had was one broken skylight and two very dented cars. The adjustor estimates there are over 130 hail dents just on the roof of my car alone. That's not counting where hail hit the same place more than once and caused the dent to wrinkle!