I rarely get worked up about the weather. I figure it's something we don't have any control over. And apparently I'm not quite in the "Weather Channel" demographic yet. Watching it for hours on end ranks right behind back-to-back episodes of Wheel of Fortune.
Yesterday I left my friends house in West-Central MS thinking that the whole thing had been overblown. The storm that was projected had completely failed to materialize. I drove a little further East to my Dad's house to spend the night and there was nothing there either.
On the radio, a DJ proclaimed that they were watching a tornado, live, ripping through Tuscaloosa. You know what? I had just watched several videos in the past week of a tornado zipping around the Interstate in Clinton, MS without doing much of anything. So I dismissed what I was hearing.
And then today, I woke up at 5 am to drive from Mize, MS to Nashville with plans of seeing a friend in Decatur along the way. Early this morning I started hearing the radio reports from Tuscaloosa. Before I got there it was evident that a catastrophic event had happened.
I passed by Tuscaloosa. I drove half-way around Birmingham and headed north. My friend in Decatur called to warn me that I probably wouldn't find electricity (and therefore gasoline) in all of N Alabama. She was almost right. I had to get 20 miles of the Interstate on fumes before I found a station with a half hour line at every pump. I continued to drive the backroads, east of Cullman all the way to Decatur. In Huntsville I ran into traffic and found another backroad- this time forcing me to ford mini-lakes where country roads used to be. I emerged from the sticks somewhere around Athens, AL.
Along the way I passed through numerous small towns and communities- unnamed on the radio or Weather Channel broadcast. Small places where other tornadoes touched down long enough to change lives forever. And probably end a few too.
I've been conflicted all day long. Part of me wanted to turn around, go home and gather my Chain Saw, Crow Bar and Bottled Water and just go to work. Obviously the other part of me won; I'm still on my road trip. I have appointments with people and this is a trip I only want to make one time. The damage will still be there when I get through and then I can spend some time in an affected area.
I really can't describe what I saw. It was similar to that first view south of the railroad tracks in Gulfport after Hurricane Katrina. Only not as wet. In Katrina, the stuff people had just disappeared. Gone forever. Today, it almost looked like it was still there- just spread over several counties. Just as gone though I suppose. I heard it described as looking like images from WW2 Hiroshima or Nagasaki but without the nuclear fallout. I'm not sure that's not a bad description.
Here's a couple pics that you won't see on tv probably, just places along the way.