If you’ve been watching the news, you probably know that Chattanooga was hit by a nasty line of thunderstorms. They hit Wednesday morning just after Luke and Ariel left for class. When Ariel got to the university, she and all the other students had to go down to the basement because a tornado had been spotted. Luke had an exam. His professor said that they weren’t going anywhere and if the tornado hit, they should hold on to their exams.
Matt, Jake, and I were at home. We watched swirling winds from our front window. (Yes, we should have been in the basement. I’m too cavalier with storms because I love them so much.) We watched our very old magnolia tree dance in the wind. We watched the roses brush their buds on the grass. We watched the rain blow sideways—that should have been a sign. I know better, having been through a tornado and a hurricane before. But we watched. When it was over, we were without power. Then someone knocked on the door. Jacob’s friend Trevor and his dad were asking if we were okay. I said, “Sure. Why?” They said, “You haven’t been outside, have you?”
We went on a walk. Our neighborhood looked like a war zone. All of the streets in and out of our neighborhood were closed by fallen trees and ripped power lines. Power poles were torn in half. Houses were a mess. One house—somewhere between 100 and 200 yards from us was speared by a massive tree branch. It went in one side of the house and came out the other.
And that was just the leading edge of the storm. The rest of the storm came later. More trees went down, more houses lost power. I’ve heard that 200,000 homes are without power in SE Tenneessee and N Georgia.
At first, we were just bored. So we played board games. But the storms made it very dark, and it’s not easy to play by candlelight. Besides, we had to be ready to head to the basement at a moment’s notice. In my boredom, I walked the neighborhood again until a neighbor scolded me, “You realize they’ve spotted another tornado, right?” After that, I decided to clean and organize Cal’s toolbox. (I told him afterwards. He’s not excited.)
When the storms were finally over (BTW, we had weird flat hail, which was bigger than quarters and we saw lightning and was purple and lightning that was red), we were very thankful that we had no damage. The magnolia lost a big branch, but it’s standing and looking defiant.
We came inside and remembered that without electricity, our sump pump doesn’t work...we ran downstairs. The basement was flooding. (This is very bad because the electrical panel of the heater shorts out and it costs $500 to replace.) Cal called my dad and asked him to find a generator. We started a bucket brigade. Candlelight will never be romantic again—bailing out your basement by candlelight leaves a bad memory, especially when one of your two buckets breaks.
Thankfully, my dad found a generator. The last in the store. We plugged it in and started the sump pump. Which sucked out the water. There was a catch though. No one knew how long the generator would run on a tank of gas. And the gas stations can’t pump gas without electricity. So we made a decision. We’d run the sump pump for 10 to 15 minutes ever hour all through the night. I have problems starting a lawn mower so Cal had to do all the restarting of the generator. (Poor guy—he’s running on coffee and exhaustion this morning.)
We thought the bad news was over. I went into Matt and Jake’s bedroom at bedtime (no one had been in there because it was dark), and I stepped into a big puddle of water. The Oriental rug in their room was drenched. The floor was soaked. The rug and scads of towels are now sitting in the bathtub. It turns out that winds had blown the rain under the window. Lovely.
Now we’re waiting for the power to come back on, hopefully soon since the rental fees for the generator are a pretty penny. And hopefully the phone lines and internet service will be restored. We do have cellphone coverage now although the reception is spotty, calls get dropped, and sometimes they just fail.
But mostly we’re just thankful that we and our home have been spared. A town only a couple of miles away is devastated. A mile wide tornado plowed through the town and shredded it. There weren’t enough ambulances so they had to set up a triage unit at a local school. The town has been declared a disaster area and no one is allowed in, though there are rumors of widespread looting. The governor is supposed to tour the area by helicopter sometimes today.
(I’ve taken photos of some of the devastation, but I’ll have to post those later. Even to get this posted means trying to find a location where someone has internet access.)
(We do have mail service and got a notification today that once again we are victims of identity theft—we had a terrible experience with this five years ago. All of our accounts were frozen until we could prove that we didn’t commit fraud. Thankfully, we aren’t being held responsible this time. However, we’ve been told to verify our credit report—accounts may have been opened in our name, etc., etc. Kind of hard when you don’t have regular phone service or internet.)