Thursday, April 13, 2006
As Pam and I drove toward New Albany Friday evening from Tupelo, the threatening sky brought back some frightening memories.
It was an eery feeling.
I quickly thought of April 3, 1974. I was in a storm cellar that night when perhaps the strongest tornado ever in the state of Alabama unleashed its fury on the small down of Guin, just a few miles from our home.
It left 30 dead and more than 250 injured.
I remember the quietness and the clouds just before the tornado struck like it was yesterday.
I recall driving through what used to be a town a few days later. Basically, there was nothing there – structures flattened.
I was asked last week if I’d ever seen a tornado’s devastation.
“Yes,” I replied. “Guin, 1974.”
The Guin tornado 32 years ago had a damage path of 800 yards wide and 102 miles long.
In Alabama, 86 people were killed and 949 injured. There were eight tornadoes in the state, four of those extremely intense.
The super outbreak of tornadoes April 3-4, 1974 was the most extensive in U.S. history - 315 people lost their lives in a 24-hour period. There were 148 tornadoes in the U.S., six rated as F-5s. There were fatalities in 11 states.
There’s a lesson here. Heed the warnings. Take the proper precautions. Be as prepared as you possibly can.
I don’t think I took the warnings seriously enough last Friday, even though those memories of April 3, 1974, are always on my mind this time of year.
As we drove home on Highway 78, we had the radio on and heard the words tornado warning for Union County and specifically New Albany, with details following on how to take cover from a twister.
Hail was already piled up on the side of the road. We had just missed it.
We saw an 18-wheeler overturned.
As we passed through the New Albany limits, the rain and wind picked up. Pam asked me to slow down. I, on the other hand, was more focused on getting through the heavy thunderstorm.
Pam kept an eye out for funnel clouds while I kept my eyes on the road.
Our daughter Emma had already called from home and asked if we knew what to do if we saw a twister while driving. She’s taking driver’s education this semester.
She also informed us it was hailing in Holly Springs.
Thank goodness, on the other side of New Albany, the situation was much calmer.
We did see another car wrecked in the median near Holly Springs.
We had decided to go to Tupelo Friday afternoon for the retirement reception for a good friend, despite the forecast for severe weather. Schools turned out early due to the serious threat.
While in Tupelo, the reports back toward Holly Springs were not good. And we found out those reports were true.
It was good to get home and downstairs in the basement area, where we stayed much of the night. A good part of the bad situation was we had some fun family time playing games together.
Friday’s severe weather outbreak capped a rugged week, particularly in our neighboring state of Tennessee. Sunday, April 2, 24 people died in the worst single-day weather event West Tennessee has seen in generations. Another 12 died Friday in Middle Tennessee, near Nashville.
I saw a man interviewed Sunday morning from Gallatin, Tenn. He actually saw the inside of the twister there. It picked him up, carried him a short distance, and he survived. His mom did not. He was in tears.
Call Marshall County lucky, if you’d like. But even more importantly, pray for those families who lost loved ones and their homes.
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