We have known for these past few days that Tennessee was in for some wild weather. The temperature suddenly soared to seventy degrees in the beginning of February and the skies looked menacing. We have lived through countless tornadic storms before so maybe we had mistakenly grown complacent. We thought that this front, like any other, would pass quickly. We may have to deal with some toppled trees and hail damage. The power might go out, but I was ready for it. I had shined the oil lamps and refilled them and I had a fire just waiting to be lit in the fireplace. I cooked supper early, in case we did lose power, everyone would still get a hot meal. No big deal.
At 8:10 p.m. last night, it became a very big deal. Suddenly the winds picked up and trees bent all most to the ground under the force. Some gave up the fight and snapped as a super cell thunderstorm marched from the South East corner of Tennessee to the North East corner before crossing into Kentucky.
We had just tucked our children into bed when the first tornado warnings were issued. Just the word “tornado” sends our nine year old into a state of panic. I told her not to worry and I told our older children not to scare her with tornado talk. I didn’t want them to see that I was worried. We live in a manufactured home out in the middle of a forrest. There is no basement. There is no lower level and there is no where to go for safety should a tornado pass our way. I was more than a little worried.
As the night wore on and the storms grew worse, my husband and I were glued to the news. Reports of death and devastation began to come in and the storm was coming our way. I began to pray. I prayed that the trees would not land on our house. I prayed that no tree would land on our propane tank and cause it to explode. I prayed that the power would stay on so that if we had to make a quick exit, we could find everything we needed in a hurry. I prayed that the trees wouldn’t land on our car. I prayed that the windows would not blow out. I prayed for our safety and the safety of everyone in the path of these storms.
My prayers were heard. The storm split and went around us before reforming and devastating the next town. The trees stayed clear of our house, car and propane tank. The windows stayed intact, the power stayed on, our house is still standing and most importantly, our family is safe. Our children slept through it all.
After the first super cell came through, we had to deal with the next big threat, which was the squall line coming our way. I prayed again. Until 4:00 a.m. this morning. Again, we were spared. Heavy rains, winds and a few broken trees were all that we had to deal with. We were the fortunate ones. 55 people died. 10 are still missing. Over 150 are injured.
All day today, we saw the devastation around us. Homes…just gone. Businesses gone. People gone. Just gone.
We saw horses’ bellies being held together by duct tape until the vet could get to the injured animals. We witnessed the miracle of the students trapped in Union University dorms being pulled out alive. We watched on the news as rescuers were searching for survivors in the Memphis mall collapse. We watched as families searched for loved ones and cried as the news broke that a mother and baby were thrown from their home during a tornado. Only the baby lived.
The devastation is incredible and the loss of life in a single storm, is staggering. We did not know last night that this is the worst storm to hit Tennessee since 1933. This morning it was an obvious fact and a heartbreaking one.
This morning our families began to call to see if we had made it through. I found myself on the phone most of the day. The relief in their’ voices broke my heart. To know that they had wondered if we could be among the dead. It had to be a rough night for them too.
But we did make it and if you were to ask me how, I would have to say, it’s because last night, I prayed.