Archived Story

Never underestimate mother nature

Published 6:00am Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I know I have rattled on about the weather in my last couple of articles on this page, but this particular story is of a much more serious note.

I can attest to the veracity of this account because it is from my own personal experience.

I lived through this moment, and it gave me a much greater respect for life and the power of mother nature.

The year was 1998 and I was nine years old at the time. The date was April 8.

I was in a little league game for Curry against Dora that night.

This is no great shock, as my team was not very good and Dora’s was, but I digress.

We had heard there could possibly be some bad weather late that night, but so far nothing seemed amiss. My mom turned on the radio and found a station carrying weatherman James Spann, a longtime meteorologist for ABC in the Birmingham market, which covers Jasper.

His broadcast gave us a heads-up that some bad weather was on the way, and my mom put her foot down on the accelerator just a bit more in the effort to get home.

Before we got to our destination, my home in the small community of Pineywoods, the radio went dead silent.

My mom discovered the radio in the minivan was still working; it was the signal that was gone. From every station.

We rushed to my house where we picked up my older sister. My older brother had been with us at the game, and attempts at calling my sister proved fruitless.

Turns out she had been exercising on a stationary bike in her room while listening to music. She was completely oblivious to our mother’s attempts to phone her and the severity of the weather.

By this point there was howling wind and driving rain, and lightning struck so fast that it lit up the sky like daytime. My mother laid down on the horn of the minivan in an attempt to rouse my sister.

My brother finally ran towards the house to get her, but she poked her head out of the front door. She asked what was going on, and my brother told her none-to-lightly to get in the vehicle. She asked why, to which my brother responded while pantomiming with his finger, “because something’s spinning.”

My sister joined us and we raised the short half-mile to my grandfather’s house just down the road.

He had a storm cellar, and that is where we were intent on going. When we arrived he was watching the weather, and we followed along as the rain, wind and lightning intensified. After a few tense minutes the storm calmed down and we began to feel safe and secure again. This was truly the calm before the storm, however, and 15 minutes later it seemed like the world was ending.

We took shelter in the hallway, as it was the only place we could go. The first gale-force wind that struck the house unsettled everything that wasn’t bolted down on my grandfather’s porch. A tornado then got within striking distance of the house, and our family wept as the house began shaking on it’s foundation.

A hundred-years-old oak tree smashed through a back bedroom just beyond the hallway, and seconds felt like hours as we waited to see what would become of us.

After minutes of intense fear and even more intense prayer, the winds subsided and the house ceased to shake.

We were all alive and unharmed, but only by the grace of God.

The tornado outbreak on April 8, 1998, would not be surpassed until April 27, 2011, a date no one in our county or state will ever forget.

One week ago as of Monday was the 15th anniversary of the single worst event in my life, but I am alive and here to tell the tale.

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