Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We were hit hard.

The photo to the left is of an area less than a mile from my house.  Everywhere around here looks like that.  None of my family and friends, nor even their property, were harmed.  We were very lucky.

I'll admit, growing up around here, I don't always take severe weather as seriously as I should.  I've been through major hurricanes, tornadoes, and once lost power for two weeks during an ice storm (we showered at the gym).

So, when I heard that thunderstorms were being predicted for this past Saturday, my only real concern was how much it would affect the church Easter Egg Hunt.

I was volunteering, so I got to the egg hunt early.  We had a bouncy house set up, tents for candy, food, and hid eggs everywhere outside.  Our contigency plan was that, if it rained, we'd just move inside.

The sky darkened, but there wasn't any rain, so we were go.  We had our first group of egg hunters, no problem.  Then the wind started to pick up.

The wind got strong enough that it blew down the top half of the bouncy house, partially collapsing it.  Though the kids inside were in no danger (a heavy quilt falling on you would have more impact), a few of the guys volunteering made a very dramatic rescue, diving inside after them.

So, no more bouncy house.  That's fine.

Then the wind got a hold of a few of the tents.  One lifted away from its posts and another girl volunteering grabbed it with me.  We were exchanging a look when it was announced that, okay, egg hunt is over, let's break down and get out of here.

Driving home with my husband and son, the sky wasn't quite as dark.  Instead, it had that sickly green light that anyone who grew up in tornado country knows to fear.  The wind buffeted my subcompact car, and we avoided the non-native drivers (the ones who slow down to a crawl and turn their hazard lights on in the tiniest bit of a storm).  We got home, and got inside, just as the rain started bulleting down.

We normally hang out upstairs, but to be safe, we all sat down on our bottom floor living room couch, and turned on the t.v. to the news.  They were showing footage from street cameras; not even any of our local meteorologists were fools enough to go out in that weather.  One by one, they kept losing feed from the street cameras, the screens either going black or to static.

Then, less than 10 minutes after getting home, everything went black as our power went out.

My husband remembered the crank-operated emergency radio my grandmother had gotten us for Christmas.  Product recommendation:  those things don't work.  We couldn't wind it up fast enough to enough generate enough power to give us time to find a station.  But, it gave my son a toy to play with while we waited out the storm.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the sky cleared.  Once we were sure everything had passed, we opened up our windows to let some air in.  We were hot and bored without power.

For entertainment, my husband and I sat next to our open window in the slight breeze, playing cards and drinking beer.  Since it was so hot, my son had stripped his pants off at the first opportunity, so we had our toddler running around in a diaper, playing with a crank-operated radio.  The only way we could have looked more white trash is if we'd moved our couch into our front yard.

Eventually we all got hungry, and I was bored, and restless to see the damage.  Being the brave matriarch, I ventured out into the great unknown, a huntress in a Versa, seeking out a hot meal for my young.

Everywhere near us was out of power.  Crossed off our list of options was Cook-Out, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts and Bojangle's.  The traffic lights were even out, making travel that much more hazardous.

Three miles down the road, I finally came to a Chick-Fil-A that was in operation.  Unfortunately, everyone in the city was there.  After waiting about 20 minutes for fast food, I returned home with my kill.  Just like with real lionesses and lions, the boys were thrilled for about 3 minutes, until they'd finished everything.  Then they were upset I hadn't brought back extra sandwiches.

Without power, we ended up making a relatively early Saturday night of it.  My son stayed up until 9:30 because any change in his routine is a hyperactivity-inducing grand adventure.  I finished a Sookie Stackhouse novel by candlelight.  My husband whined and nagged Progress Energy for estimated times the power might be restored.  (He complained about being bored, but flat-out refused to play Monopoly with me.)  We made fun of each other every time one of us tried to flick a lightswitch.  I answered texts from family and friends to assure them we were okay, and texted to check on people in returned.

Our power came back on around 2:00 a.m., waking us up with bright lights and a blaring t.v.  My husband got up and primed the filters on our aquariums, and turned everything off that needed turning off.  I went back to sleep.

On our way to church the next morning, we got to see the full devastation.  It's bad.  Maybe not the most eloquent way to put it, but the most truthful.  I heard at church that over 35 deaths had been reported.  While I grieve for their loved ones, I consider myself lucky that it's no one I know personally.

Besides power outages and a busted window or two, everyone I know is fine.  We were very, very lucky.

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