As many of you know, tornadoes ripped through the Southeast and beyond on Wednesday. Dan and I never go to the lake when we know that bad weather is approaching, but for some reason I decided we would go. Dan was apprehensive but I told him the bad weather would stay north of us. I also told him that even if we got some bad weather, it would be exciting...oh yea, it was exciting!!! I need to leave weather reporting to the professionals.
Early in the afternoon we lost power ,for a time.The trees in the park were already swaying. I saw Dan standing in the road, looking skyward. He stood there for a very long time and would later tell me that "things" just didn't feel right to him.
We ate supper around 6 and then I anxiously waited for American Idol to come on. Friends and family were calling, the NOAA weather radio was blaring and I was swapping channels on the TV, watching news out of Birmingham as well as Montgomery. My son, John Allen called back a little before 830 pm and asked me if I had heard the latest news. A Tornado was heading toward us. He said Mama, you need to come on down here right now. He and his girlfriend Casey, live in a 2 story home right on the lake, built into a hill and was a safe place to go, but it is about 6 miles from the park, and with all the winding, narrow roads , I knew we had no time to get there. Dan had already put blankets and pillows into the car and had it facing out so we loaded the dogs and dashed off to the bathhouse. I ran into the women's side and found another couple, Julia and Craig, along with Wes. They all live or vacation at the park but we had never met. We are no longer strangers,we will have a bond for life. Mr Gordon ( almost 90 years old) and David an amputee, were on the Men's side with their furbabies. We could hear the NOAA radio through the walls and Wes had a Droid, so we were up to date on the location of the tornado. Dan decided to stay in the car with our dogs. I have never heard thunder rumble so loudly. I had never before seen a bolt of lightening up close and personal,but I did that night as it flashed a blue streak into the bathhouse. I think that's when we lost power. It's about 845 now, maybe closer to 9, I really lost all track of time. Then we heard the hail...what we thought was hail. I started walking to the back of the bathhouse and sat in another cement enclosed shower stall. I just knew at any minute the roof would be peeled back. I bowed my head in prayer and I was surprisingly calm. It seemed like 5 minutes passed, but in all actuality it lasted perhaps a minute. I went 1st to the door and screamed for Dan and finally someone told me he was ok. The door was partially blocked by a pine tree and there were wires just outside the door.The hail turned out to be thousands of pine cones and debris that the winds pounded into the roof. The night air reeked of pine. That aroma will stay with me the rest of my life.
Dan, along with Wes and Craig went out to survey the park. Dan tried driving down to our trailer, but the road was blocked with felled trees.He finally made his way down to the trailer and found that we had lost the awning. A large tree came uprooted and barely missed the trailer.Our pier was damaged as well, but the boat looks fine. We had a small refrigerator on the deck and it was tossed into the yard. 2 wrought iron chairs and numerous other items were strewn into the yard. Dan was our hero when he came back with water and sodas for us all.
In the meantime my friend Darlene's husband Michael called. I could accept most calls but couldn't make any so I had him call John Allen to let him know we were ok. I don't know how much time passed before John Allen burst into the bathhouse asking, is this where the party is ?? He gets his warped sense of humor from moi! My only child had jumped into his truck and driven down to within a mile or so of the park and then walked in. He said he passed the road leading in to the park 3 times. It was so covered with trees ,debris and power lines , he could barely make a path to find us. And shouldn't have I might add! He was soaked to the bone and I could tell, he was running on adrenaline..he was wired!
We stayed in the bathhouse until 1 am. Dan had made several trips down to the trailer and around the park. We knew we had to help Mr. Gordon and David, so Dan went ahead and made a path as best he could through felled trees and downed wires. We loaded Mr Gordon into the car along with his 14 year old poodle, Lucky. Dan drove us as close as he could and then we had to walk the rest of the way. Dan walked 1st, holding Lucky ( Lucky never liked Dan in the past, but they are best buds now ! ) then Mr Gordon went next with me trying to hold onto him to steady his steps. We were a motley crew! An OLD man and his OLD dog, Dan who is so deaf he cant hear thunder and me with my bad ole back and knees. God was holding us all in the palm of his hands !! I think this very scene I described is why we went to the lake. God had a plan for us and that was to help Mr Gordon make it through the night. David refused to leave the bathhouse, so we left him with a candle and something to drink. He is fine.
When daylight finally broke through yesterday morning, all I could do was cry. Seeing all the destruction, experiencing the power of God and feeling his tender mercies was overwhelming to me!!! I feel like I have been run over by a train. I guess I was more tense than I realized, but God gave me a feeling of calmness in a very panic riddled situation. Please pray for all of those that lost loved ones, here in Alabama as well as the entire southeast. It has been a very sad few days in this neck of the woods. Thank you ALL for your prayers, phone calls, text messages and emails. You don't know what that means to Dan and myself!!! xoxoxo
This is a picture of the road leading into the park. This drive used to be lined with pine trees and flags attached to almost every one of them. They are all gone.