Yesterday, in my home state of Alabama, there were more than 100 reported tornado sightings and more than 60 confirmed dead before I went to bed. In my hometown of Huntsville, AL they are ALL without power (more than 300,000 homes) because the storms have damaged the Brown's Ferry Power Plant and they do not expect it to be restored for 4-5 days. In Tuscaloosa where I attended college, it looks like a bomb was dropped on the city. Luckily, most of The University of Alabama was unscathed, but as I write this I still have family that is unaccounted for. The tornado that went through Tuscaloosa was estimated at a mile wide. Think about that for a minute. Picture a point near you that is about a mile away and imagine a vortex of whirling debris -- of everything from paper and insullation to cars and bricks -- from where you are to that point. That tornado then moved basically up I-65 to Birmingham then took I-59 towards Gadsden and eventually into Georgia where it merged with another cell. It is unusual for a tornado in Alabama to stay on the ground for that long, and travel that far virtually uninterrupted. According to the radar, this tornado never unformed -- it shrank and grew, but never dissipated completely -- for more than 2 hours. In a way, this was a blessing because it could be tracked, and people could be warned, but it also meant that the path of destruction was wide and long. Many times, tornadoes in the South form, drop, and dissipate all within a few minutes without any warning leaving a wake of destruction.
There are many things in nature that fascinate me, but I think that violent storms are near the top of the list. I could have been a storm chaser in another life. Yesterday, as my friends and family were without power and were relying on their smart phones for info via Facebook and text messages, I became information central. I had streaming video up in 6 different windows on my laptop as I texted friends in Hazel Green, Huntsville, Madison, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa to let them know what was coming their way -- if they could get out of the basement or the bathtub or the hallway and mattress. There was nothing else that I could do for them as I sat here in Texas, more than 700 miles from all of them. I could not offer shelter from the storm, but I could tell them when to seek it. At times, I struggled to keep up because the storms in North Alabama around Huntsville were forming, dropping, and moving so fast that I couldn't text everyone fast enough.
I saw so many things as I streamed the live videos from Alabama. The weather coverage alone with the green, yellow, orange, and red covering the state radar map was enough to mesmerize me. There were reports of debris that was picked up in Tuscaloosa being dropped as far away as Oxford, AL -- more than 115 miles away. The news station out of Birmingham could literally track the "debris ball" in the tornado on the radar -- it was THAT large and dense. The tornadoes captured on film were all at once frightening and fascinating, and the pictures of the devesation left in their wake was heartbreaking and I cried more than once. These storms were the worst on record since the storms in April 1974 -- 2 weeks before I was born. I sincerely hope that the state will not see anything like them again for another 37 years. There were stories that would break your heart, stories that would scare the life out of you, and there were stories that would renew your faith.
Prayer is a part of my daily walk of faith, and I have been in constant prayer for my friends and family in Alabama since yesterday morning. I hope that all of you will join me in praying not only for those in Alabama but also for those in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia that were hit before and after Alabama. I know that yesterday there were many people who prayed for the first time. How could you not pray, when you see the Finger of God come down from the sky and decimate your landscape, forever altering the view?
This is a very good video of the Finger of God that went through Tuscaloosa:
4-27-11 Tornado Tuscaloosa, Al from Crimson Tide Productions on Vimeo.
|Tornado in Madison or Limestone County (not sure which) near my parent's house.|
|Tornado as it entered Birmingham|