Tornado, Upcoming 3rd Anniversary

April 27, 2011

Aeolus on a Tear

My husband took this photo about two weeks after. We no longer know the exact location.

Tornado damage from April 27, 2011

Tornado damage from April 27, 2011

The whole town still talks about it at gatherings, and in store checkout lines. Sometimes I can’t quite  believe it really happened, I mean, I know it did, but there’s that feel of unreality about it, like the mind has trouble acknowledging an event that is both not everyday, and extreme.

Here in the forest where we live, the lights didn’t actually go out until 5:13 pm, the instant the tornado hit in town. If we’d been home at that time, we would have learned the storm was serious, and headed this general way, right before the power, and all information, was gone. Instead, we were at my Mom’s house in town. My husband, my Mom, and I were in the actual freakin’ F4 tornado. I wrote up the experience, and the aftermath, here:

It’s lengthy, but about five pages gets us through the storm and back out at home. After leaving Mom’s neighborhood the tornado tracked through other communities, but not our home. None of them are very far away, and all are intertwined. Everyone knows people who were in the tornado, or close.

This time of year, we’re uneasy, partly from memories stirred, and partly because it’s a new severe weather season. Spring here comes with contrasts of intensities. This can happen:

Glorious Wisteria

Glorious Wisteria

But so can this:

More  tornado damage April 27, 2011

More tornado damage April 27, 2011

Long range forecasts indicate possible severe weather on April 26 and 27. It’s far too early to say exactly when and what.

There were after-effects on the psyche. Many still have them. I’m easygoing, but I was far more on edge, hot-tempered and bold for awhile. I was encountering disparaging remarks saying that “rednecks”, or some other designation indicating rural dwellers,  always say the tornado sounds like a freight train, ha ha ha. Despite my resolve to let all things go when online, that made me actually speak out on occasion. I can do that now, I can “pull rank”, I’ve been there. I did stop short of writing an entire snarky essay, “Wind Storm Survivors Guide to Metaphor”, but the fact is, a train is a large, traveling mass of loud energy and the storm roar as I heard it was a match. Trains aren’t exclusively rural. I first heard and saw one in a suburban neighborhood; trains also run through cities. Train sounds, images, and associations are widely used in comparisons of many sorts, because they’re an experience common to so many localities. Another noise cited often by tornado survivors is jet engine roar, also a mass of moving loud energy. Now, if we stop and really listen to an oncoming train, we both get nervous.

Whenever I go through something that alarms me, I tell myself I got through the tornado, I’ll get through this . . .

We’re still fixing the house and it’s become wearing, but overall I’m glad we chose not to tear the structure down. It now has a reinforced safe room, and it’s pet friendly housing. When my husband began work right outside the bathroom where we survived the storm, he found 33 indentations in the walls from wind-driven debris.

Time helps, but we are not over it, there are too many shadows to outpace. I now understand PTSD in a way I couldn’t before. If you’ve lived here a long time, you see the difference in the trees. You always know, you’ve just entered the tornado zone. It sinks my spirits every time. It won’t matter how much fixing up everyone does, it will be a long, long time, before foliage shoots up and out, trunks thicken, and the canopy evens up again. Those empty spaces were overgrown for awhile, and had an awful lonely feel:

Pokeweed Prarie up close

Pokeweed Prairie up close


Lonely Pokeweed Prairie

Lonely Prairie

We are still looking for the cat we lost that day, Tiger.

Tiger, taken before the tornado

Tiger, taken before the tornado

I look back with gratitude for three years of life and experiences we almost didn’t have. We’re fortunate to have survived, and I’m grateful, but there are interior changes that just don’t fade. So much will never be the same. In the distant past I liked thunderstorms, I liked wind – Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” was among my favorite poems – but now wind only brings deep fear, and unrest. I tend to personify impersonal forces of nature, similar to what you see in so much poetry and legend. If there was a way, I’d want to hunt down and destroy tornadic storms.

Like Captain Ahab and the whale, there’s no letting go.


Everyone please keep up with your local weather conditions, and review current advice for survival during severe weather.

The next post will be more upbeat, and colorful . . .



About Leah

I'm Leah T. Alford, a writer fascinated by the natural world and animals, especially cats.
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37 Responses to Tornado, Upcoming 3rd Anniversary

  1. chattykerry says:

    I am so sad that you lost a precious fur baby in the tornado. Here in Houston we are being challenged by record flooding and tornadoes. I thought the drought was bad with forest fires but this is even worse. I could hear the skunks and raccoons chittering in panic on the first stormy night – I hope they sat on our deck or porch to ride out the storm.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you for thinking of our lost Tiger, Kerry. I still have hope he is out there somewhere, and we will find him again. We’ve kept up with the terrible weather in TX, it sinks my heart every time I hear about it. Best wishes going out for your safety!

  2. loisajay says:

    I so feel for you. I am close by, in Florida, so share the horrors of our weather. Take care.

  3. Pam says:

    Stay safe. Keep holding on to hope and the strength of the human spirit.

  4. It’s already been a terrible April again for folks in the south–please be gentle with yourself at this time of year! We lived through Sandy & many earthquakes out West so have some understanding of the challenges. Many best wishes to you & yours! 🙂

    • Catwoods says:

      Lori, thank you so much, and good wishes going out your way also! I sympathize, I know Sandy was terrible, and earthquakes would be awful to deal with too. On Monday night we were again in a polygon warning, it went another path and didn’t hit us but it still came all too close. Feeling a bit wrung out, and may or may not do a post about it!

  5. cdog5 says:

    As I wonder whether the powerful storms rolling across the country will head my way, I read your post and realized how traumatic bad weather actually is, or can be. So glad you wrote about this, sharing your experience so the ret of us could understand. Praying you find your cat. Locally, we just heard of a woman who was reunited with her cat after a five-year separation, so have faith.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you, cdog, we will never give up on finding Tiger, and it helps to know about other reunions after long times apart. We just had another close call from this recent storm system, we were in the polygon for what turned out to be an F1. It didn’t hit us but it came really close. I’m not sure if I’ll do a post about this one or not!

      • cdog5 says:

        Hi, Catwoods! I’m Deb, by the way (I just haven’t attached my real name to my blog yet — it’s all I can do to keep writing every day! LOL). Thank you so much for stopping in, liking some posts. I hope the springtime storms stay away from your area (and all areas actually; this crazy weather!). Looking forward to more posts — but only when you’re ready. 🙂

        • Catwoods says:

          Hi Deb,
          My pleasure visiting your blog! Thanks for the good wishes on the weather. Any prediction anywhere for severe storms gives me a chill these days. I’ve actually been putting another post together, still could be as long as a week before it’s ready. I don’t work fast, LOL.

  6. msmouse7 says:

    I lost my home to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. So when I read your tornado story I started feeling a bit tense. It has been over 20 years for me and I still shiver when I smell mildew and hear helicopters flying overhead. Glad that you are doing well and rebuilding. Hope Tiger the cat is doing well, wherever he is.

    • Catwoods says:

      Sandy, I am so sorry to learn of the loss of your home. I know that must have been devastating, and I also know that the effects do linger, as you said. Thanks for you good wishes and your hopes about Tiger. All the best to you, Leah.

  7. Marylou says:

    I just read all of this, oh my goodness. I grew up across the street from Wood Manor so Forest Lake is like home for me….University Place, Tuscaloosa Junior High, Tuscaloosa High School. I live in Northport but am TERRIBLY afraid of storms and this storm sent me for a ride. Even though I was not in the direct line of the storm and actually had no effects from it I still have issues. I can not imagine what being in the path was like. I am already starting to panic about the upcoming system in a couple of days. May God protect us all !!

    • Catwoods says:

      Marylou, thank you for your thoughts. I know anyone with ties to the areas that were hit has felt lingering effects from that storm! All weather alerts put me on edge now, so I completely understand what you are saying. I hope and pray for the safety of everyone experiencing terrible weather.

  8. lauramacky says:

    Oh my goodness…I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I just started following your blog so I’m not exactly sure where this is but I can’t even imagine these kind of devastation. 😦 I did go through the 1989 earthquake but the damage was to areas around us, not in our home. The thought you lost your kitty is so sad too as I love animals. I’m glad you survived! Thank you for sharing this story.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you for your caring comment! I know being anywhere near an earthquake had to be a harrowing experience, too. We’re in Alabama; many states were hit by tornadoes on 4-27-11, but I believe that at 64, Alabama had the highest number, although I could be wrong.

      • lauramacky says:

        I’ve never seen a tornado or even been near one. Well, there was a small funnel cloud over the baseball stadium once but I was home. But nothing like what you experienced! My thoughts and prayers go out to you and everyone who had to deal with it.

        • Catwoods says:

          Thank your for your thoughts and prayers! We’d had tornadoes come close before this, but had never been hit. Tornadoes are becoming more common outside the usual regions, and they have actually occurred in every contiguous US state, so that’s why I always encourage everyone to stay aware of weather conditions.

  9. Candace says:

    I’m sorry, how terrible, ans so sad about Tiger. Maybe someone in your area has taken him in…

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you Candace, I appreciate your kindness! We do think it’s possible someone took Tiger in, but he could also be living in a feral colony. He was a former feral himself. We keep his picture circulated around the groups doing TNR in town. All displaced cats could have traveled some distance, frightened by the noise and activity from the cleaning up after the tornado.

  10. Karen B says:

    I am so moved by this post describing such a harrowing experience and I am really hurting for you. We all like to fool ourselves that we have control over our lives, then it only takes an experience like this, or the loss of a loved one to tell us that really we have none at all.
    It will have changed your outlook forever and made you more fearful and wary. And you need to be like that, to improve your chances of protecting yourself in the future.
    My heart aches for your sense of distress in relation to Tiger’s absence. You and he are in my thoughts and heart.

    • Catwoods says:

      Karen, thank you so much for the kindness, and wisdom, of your words and thoughts. It’s so very helpful to experience good will and to know that there are such kindhearted people. All the best wishes going out to you!

  11. rumpydog says:

    We, too, are vigilant for tornadoes. We’ve also seen the damage they can do.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you for your comment, rumpydog! I’m glad you’re being careful about the storms. I never thought it could happen to us, and then, it did.

  12. I’m sorry you had such a traumatic experience… I understand how out could affect you for years to come… So sorry…. Sorry about the loss of your Kitty too. Hope he is found unharmed and returns home!♥

  13. ginnietom says:

    tragic and a big loss…climate zones radical change…:-(((
    have a good passion and a world at peace these easter days…

  14. We’ll be thinking of you this Spring and praying for no more tornado damage! Keep safe!

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