In a sleepy stupor, I stumbled downstairs, where Handsome had the tv on. The radar images showed indications of a funnel cloud about 7 miles away from our house (directly over the office of our family business), and headed in our general direction. I didn't need anymore waking up after seeing that image. Handsome, being the manly man that he is, went outside to check out what was going on. Buddy happened to wake up at this moment. After getting him downstairs and gathering Curly up from her toys, I immediately started cleaning out the only relatively safe place in our house during a tornado.
Five years ago, when we built this house, we were in "luv" with the open floor plan concept. We thought, "Hey, we're expecting our first baby. It will be easy to keep track of them if downstairs is basically one open room!" Apparently, the designers of this concept don't think about weather safety when working on these plans. The bathroom is in the worst possible place for a tornado. In the front, with a window, sticking out on it's own. There is literally only one place in our house on the first floor that doesn't have windows or an outside wall, and that place is the teeny, tiny closet under the stairs.
We affectionately call this place in our home The Stinky Closet. It happens to be the place where I store the downstairs diaper pail and diaper genie. So at any given point in time, the closet smells like dirty diapers. The severity of the smell depends on how desperately the trash needs to be taken out. On most days, I'd say we hover at stinky threat level orange, but thankfully, on Saturday morning, I'd emptied the cans and put a new air freshener in there, so we were at a stinky threat level yellow.
So as I am desperately heaving diaper pails, extra baby wipes, boots and other random things out of the closet, the power goes out. By this time Handsome has come back in the house and informed us that the sky is looking really scary. I throw some shoes on my kids and position us next to the stinky closet, so we can jump in with a moment's notice. Handsome had turned on our battery powered radio. They were still playing country music, oddly enough, as if nothing was going on, but about every other minute, a very scared sounding DJ would break in and update us on what was going on.
So we waited.
The rain got harder, the wind was blowing pretty strong.
We waited some more.
We never heard anything like a train coming. Things never got eerily still. It just all of the sudden stopped raining and the sun came out. After about 30 minutes of waiting and listening to the radio, we figured we were in the clear. Naturally, Handsome goes back outside. After another 15 minutes, I feel safe enough to stick my head out there. It was wet but nice outside. The kids ventured out with me, where we chatted with a neighbor about the gossip that was already flying about what areas were hit and where the storm was headed. There was absolutely zero damage in our neighborhood.
Handsome decided he needed to go check on the office. Right before he left, a received a call that no one could reach one of our friends, who's home is in the area that was being reported as hardest hit so far. Handsome headed out to check the office and check on our friends.
During our experience, my sister, her husband and three little boys where huddled in their "under the stairs" closet (there's is much bigger and non-stinky). They heard the train sound. Their entire house shook. The tornado rammed right through their town, and seemed to "jump" over their neighborhood and more on to elsewhere. I thoroughly believe the hand of God was covering them and their house. They had no damage. Not a single tree down in their heavily wooded back yard. All around their neighborhood, trees were down, roads were impassable, roofs were blown off homes. Their area was spared. God is good!
Handsome checked out the office, which was fine. He found our friends, who were safe, but without power. They had no idea that there was massive damage near their neighborhood. During this time the power was restored to our home, so they came on over with their five year old and baby in tow. We ate pizza and had a giant slumber party at our house, since their power wasn't expected to be restored for several days.
The news got worse and worse. Lots of people lost everything. Sanford, an area very close to our hearts, was practically blown off the map. The first apartment that Handsome and I ever shared together was leveled in Fayetteville. Areas of Raleigh were really bad. It made you feel very helpless.
This was our first apartment in Fayetteville
Damage in Sanford
On Monday night, my neighborhood ladies bible study had a fantastic idea. We ventured out as a group to help a total stranger with storm clean up. The woman we found was a single mom who lived about 5 miles away, with no equipment to even attempt to clean up the several trees that were down on her property. Armed with hacksaws, trimmers, gloves and rakes, our group of about eight ladies got to work. Within two hours, we had cleared her property and half of what needed to be done on her next door neighbors property.
While we were there, a few people saw what we were doing and decided to help out. A sweet young married couple showed up about half way in. A guy with a chainsaw stopped as he was driving by to help us cut the large stumps. A man who had come by her house earlier looking to get paid for removing the trees stopped by to give an estimate, saw what we were doing and decided to help out for free with his chain saw. Another neighbor on his way home from the gym stopped just to lend another pair of hands. It was great! We were also able to talk with these folks a little bit about why we were there, and invite them to church with us.
It was a great experience. The whole area smelled like freshly cut wood, people were everywhere, raking, sawing, cutting limbs. It was a real community effort. A couple of the ladies went back today with their husbands to finish up the second property that we couldn't get to because it got dark. It really was a blessing to feel like we could help out in some way. We prayed for the home owner and we were able to share a bit of Christ's love through what we did. I came home feeling sore, but truly happy. (Of course, the Krispy Kreme donuts we ate after we were done didn't diminish that happy feeling!)