An Amazing Account Of The Enterprise Tornado

| March 23, 2007 @ 2:44 pm | 11 Replies

Thanks to Jamie Sandford, who forwarded this to us… Everyone needs to read this to understand why tornado safety and awareness is so important. I obtained permission from the writer to publish this on the blog….


This is from one of our Alabama Power Appliance Salespeople. Her daughter’s home was destroyed in the Enterprise tornado and this is her recollection of it. You don’t get to hear these kinds of descriptive stories often. I think she accurately portrays the stun and chaos of the post-tornado scene.”


A few weeks ago, a tornado ripped through my small town. I was at work that day, and went home because there were alot of tornado warnings and my intuition told me we’d be safer at home than we would at work. We went home at 10:30 and I instantly felt relief. At about 12:55 I heard the tornado sirens and saw there was a warning for a tornado in our city. I started to prepare the bathroom, putting cushions from a couch and a comforter in there. I gathered my 2 children, 9 & 2 with me and told them we were going to sit in the bathroom “just to be safe”.

My daughter was washing her hands at about 1:10 or so (approx., anyway, I really lost concept of time). I heard (or felt) something so I told her to turn off the water. I thought it was my husbands keys jingling in the door. I cracked the door to yell to him to hurry up and come to the bathroom with us. I then realized it wasn’t him– it was the walls shaking, and debris flying against the sides of our home. I closed the door and told my kids to hurry up and get under the blanket. I put them under me, and me under the cushions with the blanket on top. A few seconds later the power went off and almost instantly the roof flew off. I felt like my body was about to explode or implode, not sure which. The force of the tornado was sucking everything and was trying to pull the blanket off us. I held it as tightly as I could around all us. My 9 yo dd was screaming “we’re gonna die!!!” an my 2yo was laying under me completely limp with his eyes open. He never moved a muscle during the whole thing. I kept telling myself “we’re going to be okay” over and over. At one point I lost hope and thought the same thing Kaya had been screaming. I was wondering HOW we would die. Would something heavy fall on us? Would the walls around us give in and put us right in that tornado? What probably only lasted seconds seemed to last hours. The house shook and felt like nothing I could ever imagine. Never have I felt a horror like that. About that time I realized the wind was weakening some. I decided to pull the blanket back to see what was on us. Massive amounts of debris and our ceiling had fallen in on us. There was still bits of shredded pine and shards of glass falling like snow. I covered us up until I felt it had settled. I pulled the blanket back and my daughter began to yell “He’s dead! Mom, Rider is dead!!!” I thought he was too. He was laying there with his eyes closed completely lifeless. I felt and found a pulse and he was breathing, but he continued to not move as I picked him up and put his head on my shoulder. When I opened the bathroom door I had to shove it a little to make it open. I never thought I would see what was on the other side of that door. For a second I didn’t understand where we were. This wasn’t my home…. Where were the walls and windows? There were piles of who knows what all around us, and no path to walk out. Someone yelled that there was a gas leak somewhere and we had to hurry. None of us had shoes on, and my son was only wearing a diaper. We started screaming for help. I was so paniced… what if that thing wasn’t gone yet, or what if it turned around (I wasn’t thinking logically about the nature of tornados)? We started screaming. We could see the street from where we stood but I needed help getting my kids out of the piles of rubble. There were people walking by like zombies. They looked like they had no idea where they were, or where they were going. I was thinking “Why aren’t these people helping us? They aren’t running or rushing to get to their home to help family out. Can they not hear us, see us?”. I frantically searched the ground around us for clothing, shoes, my purse, my keys. Anything familiar. I found a tablecloth to wrap around Rider and about that time 3 teenaged boys came to help us out. It wasn’t until then my son began to cry. Really cry like I’d never heard him before. The boys worked like an assembly line and passed my son, then my daughter out and helped me climb over the rubble. He said we needed our shoes, and asked where we last had them so they could try to get them for me. I told them not to worry about my shoes, to go ahead with finding others.

I didn’t know where to go. Powerlines were down everywhere. Water was shooting somewhere out of my home, there was broken glass, pine sticks,and pieces of the whole neighborhood everywhere. I had never in my life so desired to be in a strong structure, immediately. My kids and I walked down to the corner of the street, where there used to be a small meat market and hair salon. A woman pulled her suburban on the corner and told me we could sit in it. She was off duty rescue personnel and had her little baby in the suburban. I was holding my kids as tightly as I could, nursing my son hoping it would comfort him and still looking for something more to wrap my kids in. It was still a little windy, and they were shaking from being cold and scared. There was mass histeria around us. People were bleeding from all different places and it seemed like no one was coming to help. Little did I know the high school had just been hit by the same tornado, and a wall had fallen in on the kids killing 8 of them. My brother is the auto mechanics teacher, and was on the very same hall with those kids.

After trying constantly to get cell phone reception, I got through to my mom and my husband, giving them the same brief message for fear of losing the call. “We’re okay- the house is gone”. Within minutes my husband showed up and went with resuce personnel to help pull people out of homes, then went with a few people to try to get to the high school to help pull out kids there. My mom came to pick us up at that corner market. I was so scared about so many things…. is my brother okay, is my friend and her family that lived right by the high school okay, oh no, cooper needs his oxygen, what if his oxygen isn’t working with the power out, is my husband going to be okay, is EVERYONE okay, what if another tornado comes right behind it, am i having a heart attack, my chest feels so tight, is the baby okay inside me? is she dead? can’t feel her moving, i can’t breathe, inhaled too much fiberglass, do i need to go to a doctor? I wanted to go check on my brother but couldn’t. Traffic was blocked in all directions from the high school. My husband ran almost 2 miles that day to get to the high school to help…. he’s my hero. I kept trying to call Melissa (my friend by the high school) and I was scared to death when I couldn’t get through. It was such a relief when my dh called me from her house and said they were all okay.

I had no idea exactly what my house looked like. We went back a day or two after and it looked nothing like I remembered it. I guess my brain and eyes couldn’t take in that much at once. The only room in the house that still had 4 walls intact was the bathroom we were in. Every other room was destroyed. The soccer goal and the fold up bleachers from the ymca behind our house was in (what was) our bedroom. Our huge shed behind our house was completely gone and the pool table that was once in there was now in my bedroom. The couch in my living room was completely gone. Kaya said she saw it in someone elses house, but I never saw it at all. Our dog was in the garage and made it out okay. I’m really shocked about that because it really was just a pile of wood and brick, with no walls at all. The electric ac/heating unit had lifted straight up out of it’s little closet in the hallway and dropped back down into my daughters room. Nothing was where it originally was, except a tube of toothpaste and an oil burner in my bathroom. I still can’t keep a dry eye thinking about that day. I know good things come out of all bad things, and I know the fact that we made it out okay really is enough for me. I just continue to be scared.

I have always loved and appreciated the family and friends in my life, and even so I have gained even more love for all of you. You never realize the depth of your love for the people around you until you experience almost being separated from them. I think about all the people that sent their kids to school that day never knowing they wouldn’t be coming home. It breaks my heart that an older lady was sitting in her home and even though the tornado didn’t hit her home a shard of glass flew in the window and cut her artery and killed her. She couldn’t get help quick enough. She never saw that coming. She never had a chance to hug her loved ones and tell them how special they are to her. I guess that’s another thing I’m so grateful for is I DO have that chance.

Anyway, I vented all this just to get it off my chest. I’m having trouble healing and I think the first step in doing so may be sharing my experience with others. I love you all so much and am so glad to be able to share my life with you.


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About the Author ()

James Spann is one of the most recognized and trusted television meteorologists in the industry. He holds the AMS CCM designation and television seals from the AMS and NWA. He is a past winner of the Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year from both professional organizations.

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