Where was I during the minutes the twister was on the ground? In a Walmart (the shopping mall of the South) less than half a mile away (ack), clustered during the almost one-hour-long Tornado Warning with all the other customers in the Ladies Wear department watching my cart of food slowly defrost and wilt—completely oblivious that the tornado was ravaging buildings, cars and trees only a short jaunt down the road.
I kinda figured something was up when about 20 minutes into the Warning the power flickered and then went out (not a common occurance for the Super-Stores). After the warning expired, I abandoned my cart (the power still hadn’t come back on so no cash-registers), dashed through the rain to the car and made my way out of the parking lot—and then watched with a growing sense of something’s-up as all the police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and otherwise sirened-and-lighted vehicles wizzed down the road. Sure enough, something was up.
It seems the tornado touched down south of the highway, jumped through a neighborhood, took down trees like a giant waving his club in a heavily wooded area as it crossed the highway, tossed bleachers from the AUM athletic fields onto our main Post Office, redistributed cars from the Post Office’s parking lot into a now decimated FunZone (a warehouse-type building with a rollar skating rink, games and a day-care—from which all 31 kids are safe) before taking out some apartments and more houses before it swirled away.
While most folks are familiar with the Tornado Alley of the Mid-West, fewer know that we here in the Deep South have our own zone: Dixie Alley (which has fewer tornadoes than the Mid-West but 1.5 times as many strong tornadoes). Our peak season is in November or early Spring. In fact, November 15 is a notorious day for Dixie Alley, which in 1995 saw a tornado in Northern Alabama that took over 20 lives. Unlike the Mid-West, however, houses in my area of Alabama generally do not have basements (the soil and water table aren’t condusive). Which really kinda freaked me out when I first moved here, heh.
I lived in Kansas for two years and never saw a tornado or damage from one. It wasn’t until I moved here that I saw my first funnel cloud. And now I’ve seen the damage from a tornado first-hand. Which is somewhat unnerving. Somehow, seeing pictures on TV from another community isn’t the same as seeing the roof torn off your vet’s office, a monstrous pile of rubble in a FunZone where your kids have played numerous times, upside-down bleachers on your Post Office lawn and trees snapped like twigs alongside a road you drive every school day.
I’ll post more pictures soon.
(Images: Apartment buildings; the former FunZone; Steak & Shake (closed); wooded area near the highway)