As I was settled in watching my Friday night installment of House I was disgruntled when interrupted by the weather station for a meteorological alert, accompanied by its familiar obnoxious ear piercing beeps. These wind me up as they ruin a good show and are usually warnings regarding remote parts of Georgia and of no relevance to us at all. This time however I stopped my grumbling and my ears pricked when the forecaster mentioned a tornado warning had been issued for City of Atlanta – Fulton County, and parts of DeKalb. Atlanta was bright red on the map and I sat up with a start when the close up showed the predicted path heading straight towards East Atlanta Village.

Bill was at the airport in NY waiting to board his plane home so my first thought was to fire out a text message to warn him to be safe driving home on landing. He immediately called me back chiding me for making him nervous about flying and gave me some quick what to do in a tornado situation instructions. The rain outside really began to pick up then and my connection to the storm’s progress was severed when our power cut. Instilling urgency, this was my cue to get off the mobile and get Sam, Quincy and I to safety.

Poor little Sam was sound asleep and I was hesitant to wake him as he’d had a raging temperature and wasn’t very well when I put him to bed. Instead I initially just left him slumbering and pulled his bed from the windows to as central to the middle of the house as I could get him. By now the storm outside was fierce and I huddled by Sam ready to grab him and leap into the bathroom and hide at any second.

Bill said the tornado would sound like a freight train, but although everyone else attests to that, I never really heard it, just the dreadful wail of high winds such as I’d never experienced before. It’s not uncommon for us to hear branches falling around and on our house during storms, but I wasn’t even aware of any bumps competing with the roar of the wind.

I don’t think it was long after that the winds died down and the sound of sirens from emergency vehicles, punctuated by the crash of thunder, filled the air instead. I decided to go clamber into bed, leaving Sam tucked up, and wait for Bill to get home.

Outside I could also hear the neighbours yelling on their front porch and Quince kept getting very upset by the unusual sight of several people wandering up and down the road with torches. I think the first sign I had of anything being really wrong on our street though was when several fire engines came past the house and then backed up again and went up Nash. They were obviously trying to pick their way through to somewhere and getting blocked.

Sleeping was out of the question as I was far too nervous, and there was still some serious thunder and lightning going on overhead.

Around one o’clock little Sam woke up in distress and needing lots of love and attention. As I was attempting to change his nappy by torchlight I got a text from Bill saying that he had landed safely and would be home shortly. Hoorah!

Sam would not settle back down again and insisted that he was hungry. He would spit out everything I tried to give him to eat though. The next hour or so passed quickly as I tried to placate Sam and keep his mess to a minimum, and I was just being to worry about where Bill had got to when I got a freaked out call from him.

Apparently it was a really smooth landing at the airport and the captain just jovially mentioned that Atlanta was experiencing some showers, so when Bill drove home and ran into devastation as he hit East Atlanta he near panicked. He’d then spent a good while been driving around the neighbourhood trying to get to Sam and I but was being confronted by blocked roads at every turn. Eventually he had got as far as our road where he had found some of the worst damage yet and was talking to a neighbour whose house had been crushed by a falling tree. To reach Sam and I, Bill ended up having to drive through the vacant burnt out house on Josephine’s front yard! He was very relieved to find us still intact when he got here. Big hugs all around. It was sooo good to have Bill back.

Around four or five we then had another terrific round of scary lightning storm which kept me on edge but which Bill somehow slept straight through. I couldn’t even count between the lightning and thunder it was so close together, and every crash would make me jump and want to be elsewhere.

Braeburn and Josephine Pan

In the morning while I was getting Sam ready for the day Bill took a walk around the neighbourhood with Quincy. This was the scene six doors up from us, yet thankfully our little house was unharmed. The tornado had blown through Downtown Atlanta, wreaked havoc in Cabbagetown and then careered into East Atlanta Village where apparently it had finally ended its path of destruction at our doorstop.

Although the emergency services and GA Power were already out in force we were convinced that it would be some time before we got power back, and seeing as Sam was poorly, we decided to drive down to Milledgeville for the weekend and hang out with Bill’s folks. Before we headed down there Bill drove me around so I could see some of the damage for myself. It was quite amazing. I’ve never seen huge trees spun around like candy floss, twisted and turned into such tangled masses. Clumps of trees, once proud and erect, now looked like sorry straggled lumps of spaghetti.

Other trees had come crashing down on top of houses causing some terrible damage. I have no idea how nobody was actually hurt badly or killed on Friday night. I can’t believe we didn’t lose a single tree, not even the dead one in the back yard we were hoping would come down (glad it didn’t though!).

One of the most bizarre sights we saw was this shed, or maybe car port, that had taken flight, flipped over the house, and been caught high up in a tree:

Van Epps and Ora Ave. (there’s also more photos on Flickr)

We didn’t even get to drive down Glenwood and into the village proper as emergency services were busy clearing the roads there and we didn’t want to get in the way.

Of course, we got down to Milledgeville and that afternoon another tornado had us scurrying for cover in the bathtub down there too! That one was accompanied by some tremendous hail raining down on us. I don’t think that one got as close to us though and all was well. Meanwhile, Atlanta was apparently hit again by another fierce storm battering the already tornado weary residents.

Amazingly we heard our electricity had been restored by Sunday morning so after a pleasant weekend with Granma and Granpa headed back to our little house that afternoon.

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