At 3:30 this afternoon it will be four days since the tornado hit.
First thing. We are fine. My wife was at a client's lumber office when the tornado hit. They saw it coming and 12 of them got into a crawl space under the office. Janet said it was like the sound of a train going by. They came out and found the building they were in damaged but not seriously. They went outside to find the lumber yard and all its outbuildings destroyed. She called me on her cell and said shes had been in the middle of a tornado and my son and I should be in our safe zone. I had been watching the sky and knew the storm had passed so we got in the car and headed for Janet.
We live on the north side of Madisonville and had no damage, just rain. Pat and I drove down the four lane towards the south side. We passed through the area where the storm had corssed the parkway. Lots of tree damage.
We drove on to the lumber yard and found Janet and the owners walking around stunned at the damage. She obviously got the huge hug from me. I am so thankful that she was unhurt. We walked around a looked at damage of the kind I have seen after other tornados. Severe, but not total devastation.
We returned home to change to clothes and get ready to help. Our friends Jim and Janie live in an area hard hit. They had been at work and were safe, but could locate their daughter. They had been told that they could not go home because the damage was too great. They called us to help find Katie who babysits in your neighborhood. The phone lines and cell phones were sporatic with no power. We got in the car and started looking for her. Janie stayed at the church were she works and waited there while we and others looked for Katie. After the power went out, Katie, the children she was sitting and their parents went to McD's for dinner. When Katie was unable to reach her parents, they went to the church and parents and child reunited. Jim and Janie tried to go to their house and were allowed to walk. In the dark they were able to walk their street and shocked to find only shadows where houses had been. Their house was standing but did not enter in the dark. When they called to tell us all this we made our home available to them.
We heard that the damage was more severe in an area where some friends live so we knew we should try and help. We ate a quick bite of dinner and headed towards the south side and our friends. The main drive to the subdivision was blocked by police so I drove the back roads to their home. The closer we got, the more we knew they had big trouble. Rescue crews had cleared a path with chain saws and front-end loaders. Trees were piled up on both side of the street. It was already dark and I couldn't see far, but I didn't see anything good.
We finally got to their house and found Burl and Paula's neighbors and other friends there removing furnishings from the house. We pitched in. A one-story addition on the back of their two-story house was gone. The roof of the house had slid 4 feet towards the front of the house. There were 2x4s sticking through the walls. One friend had brought a 6 x 20 trailer and we loaded as much as we could. Paula picked through her belongings and told us what to save. We worked until the police enforced a curfew. I did get time to look around outside in the dark and I knew in the morning that it was not going to be a pretty picture.
We returned home. The power was back on. Jim, Janie, and Katie were there, stunned by what had happened to them. We had a few beers and drinks that night while talking it out. Needless to say, it was a restless night in our house.
Wednesday morning Jim, Janie, Katie and Janet headed for Jim and Janies' home. I stayed at our house to answer the phone and coordinate the recovery effort. After more friends and family were contacted, I headed for the site.
As I got to the south side, I could see the damage to the golf course and the homes to the east where we had worked the night before. Trees snapped off and blown over. The is no branch smaller than 5-6 inches on any tree. In the daylight I see my first damaged house. And it's not there. A fireplace and chimney at one end and a closet safe at the other end of a concrete pad. Nothing in between. I mean nothing. No toilet. No bathtub. No pipes sticking out of the concrete. No appliances.
I cross the ridge that is the end of Madisonville and the beginning of Earlington and I am stunned. The neighborhood where Jim and Janie live is on a ridge on the west side of the road. I stare in amazement as I realize there are no houses and trees on the hill. Everything is knocked down. I drive to the site and get out just shocked at what I see.
Highland park had 12 homes. 8 are demolished. Nothing but foundations or basements. 1 is a twisted wreck where the house was spun on the foundation and it leans into the basement. 2 have no roofs and missing walls with the contents missing. Jim and Janie's has 1/2 of roof left with at least 3 huge trees layng into or across the house. The wind had blown part of the roof off and then blew out the wall at the far end of the house. The sheets of the bed in the master bedroom were sucked out the hole and the mattresses thrown up against the wall. The windows were blown out or broken by branches. The inside doors twisted and broken off the hinges.
This is the only house on the street where the majority of personal items have been salvaged. We spent two days sorting and packing and moving them to a new home. Jim's employer has a home for sale and she offered it to Jim. It needed a lot of work and we think that by Monday or Tuesday they will be able to move in. They are there now trying to organize it.
Back to the subjet line. NOAA officials have now determined that when the storm touched down it was an F4. Very few F4s are recorded. None ever anywhere near here. No one was killed. 25 or so injured. Some seriously. A 500 yard path for about 15 miles. The FEMA guy said he had never seen so many homes destroyed in an area. I have seen the aftermath of tornados before. Nothing compares to what a see when I stand on the hill at Jim and Janie's and look down the path of destruction. These were not mobile homes and trailers, but well built one and two-story homes. I have never seen a brick home destroyed before. And my bigger question is: Where is all the stuff that cames from these homes? I look at a roofless building and down the path of destruction and no roof is to be seen. Where are all the refrigerators, washers, dryers, toilets, tubs. sinks, mattresses, furniture, etc? I drove to work yesterday to a site 45 miles away. I did see alot of plastic and fiberglass insulation in fields 40 miles away. There must be a lot of stuff in farm fields northwest of here.
There were over 100 homes destroyed here. About 600 have some kind of damage. The Red Cross is on the job and churches opened there doors as shelters. We will heal.
I'm trying, but I don't know if I have expressed how amazed I am at the power of such a storm. If you are fortunate enough to get a warning, hide yourself in you concrete reinforced bunker.
Thanks for listening,