I’ve been having a fabulous time on my hols in America – and I am thankful to the happy couple for giving me an extra day off.
I’ve mostly been hanging out in my hometown. It’s in Lawrence County, Tennessee and sits right on top of the Alabama border. I don’t know if you’ve seen the news lately – but northern-ish Alabama and across the Tennessee border has been hit by some pretty heavy weather. It wasn’t a great place to be on Wednesday.
We’d been up in Kentucky, visiting Mammoth Cave National Park and the roadside tourist trap Dinosaur World (see my fabulous set on flickr), but I knew a storm was on the way and we cut our visit short. Kentucky radio was ominously full of interruptions from the weather service predicting “quarter sized hail” (that’s the size of a 10p roughly! though worth slightly more) and flash flooding.
We got back to my mom’s just before the storm hit. We would have been safer in Kentucky. Thunder, lightning, heavy rain all night. In the morning it started to clear and then the tornado warning sirens went. There were tornadoes on both the leading and trailing edges of the storm. My family suffer from cabin fever, so my mom dragged me out during the middle lull to do some early voting in local elections. We were voting for liquor by the drink – allowing you to buy a glass of wine or a mixed drink at a bar or restaurant. Clearly, that’s something worth dying for along with the whole democratic principle. And we went shopping.
Now some might say that shopping for shirts is a low priority when people are warning of super cells coming up from Alabama – but not for my mother. The staff were telling us to go home. I have a three year old son that was in my mom’s house that’s nothing but windows, so I was saying we should go home. My mom was looking at capri pants.
The tornado sirens went and the staff locked us in the store. We had to wait it out in the back – away from any windows. But not my mom! She made them unlock the doors while she went shopping at another store. I hung out with the staff and the one other customer. Finally, it looked clear enough (though tornado weather is deceptive) and we went home.
Although Lawrence County was hit by tornado activity, my family and friends seem alright.
But that’s a lot more than can be said for much of the mid-South and central Alabama. This is one of the worst series of tornadoes to ever hit the United States and is the 2nd in death toll (now standing at around 350).
Thursday dawned clear and beautiful, but as we drove across the bottom of the state of Tennessee toward Chattanooga we saw sporadic devastation. I saw flooding across several counties that I’d never seen before, and I’ve seen some flooding – creeks swollen to rivers and lakes. Fields, parking lots, sports fields covered in feet of water. As we came toward Chattanooga we saw places off the Interstate where roofs had been blown away and stands of mature trees mown down.
South of Chattanooga, the town of Ringgold, Georgia was blown away. On the right hand side of the Interstate everything looked as normal, on the left hand side it was a debris field.
I know what good friends and neighbors people in the South are. So it’s no surprise that the day after the storms people were taking time off work to search for survivors and to begin the clean up.
In my own hometown, not hard hit, they’re re-focusing the Lawrenceburg Green Streets festival and market down on the town square as a way to gather supplies for the hard hit in Alabama. Baby supplies, water, non-perishable food.
Cash will also be needed to help people clean up and get back on their feet. There are many ways to donate. I tend to use the Salvation Army (and in the UK for Gift Aid) But the Red Cross is great, too.