I See Skies of Blue…

Today was one of those perfect spring days.  The colors were all vibrant and intense.  The grass and trees were colored in a myriad of complimenting shades of green.  The sky was wasn’t just blue–it was bright and rich, the kind of sky that never seems to be quite real.  It was like looking up into a cartoon imagination of what the sky should be.  Fluffy, bright white clouds were strewn across it in playful arcs.  The birds were chirping in a complicated song composed of the voices of at least six different species who were all eager to bask in a wonderfully warm day.  It really was warm too–warm and pleasant.  It wasn’t at all muggy and humid as I have come to expect warm Mississippi days to be.  A gentle breeze blew dozens of smells through the air–our neighbor’s freshly mown lawn, the pine trees growing in the yard, flowers of every shape, color, and size.  It smelled of life itself…if such a thing can be said to have a smell.  In short, it was wonderful.

It’s hard to imagine that yesterday…well, yesterday wasn’t.

Instead, yesterday was the second worst tornado day in US history.  It was beyond horrible.  Numerous, powerful thunderstorms produced numerous, powerful tornadoes that ravaged 14 states with Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and southern Tennessee bearing the brunt of the damage.  And the damage was beyond extensive.  Millions of dollars in destruction…schools levelled…churches toppled…sections of big cities completely eradicated…and, most importantly, lives lost.  At least 280 people lost their lives yesterday in this insane tornado outbreak.  It is likely that that toll will continue to climb as well since rescuers have yet to sift through all of the rubble that was left behind.  165 tornado sightings were reported yesterday.  Granted, there probably weren’t actually that many–since sometimes different people report the same tornado.  However, there were definitely a LOT of them swirling around and ruining lives across the South.  There were at least eight reported within a thirty mile radius of the town that I live in.  However, the worst ones were in Alabama.  There, a thunderstorm which started in Mississippi (and was supposed to head our way!) produced a number of tornadoes that killed at least 184 people and caused untold damage and destruction in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and small towns throughout that part of the state.  I can’t even imagine how terrifying the storm must have been when it arrived there.  Officials are saying that the tornado in Tuscaloosa was at least an F4…and possibly even an F5.  They are saying that the wind could have been moving in excess of 200mph!  Some are even saying that it is possible that 50-60 of the reported tornadoes could actually have been a single tornado that travelled through 4 different states which would make it one of the longest-lasting on record!!!  If so, that particular tornado is the one that destroyed Tuscaloosa, and it would have started in Mississippi…

The thought alone is terrifying.  We were on Tornado Warning for much of the day yesterday–beginning around 3AM and continuing until a little after 4PM.  The sirens were so incessant that I lost track of how many times they went off.  I do know that they kept me up all night–well, they did with the assistance of the wind.  Swirling clouds of rain were battering the house from all sides.  It was–I imagine–like being under fire in a war zone.  My mother watched as the rain swirled in circles that were severe enough to make her think they were a tornado!  It went on and on for hours.  We only got a quick reprieve around 5AM.  The storm had started up again by the time she took my brother to school just before 8AM.  She said that the rain was so heavy that it turned the roads into streams.  She couldn’t use her brakes because she was afraid the car would swerve.  She said it was more like boating than driving.  The sirens returned shortly after that.  They went off six times in the twenty minutes it took me to have breakfast!!  They continued to go off for much of the morning… 

I had to go to work at 2PM, but another Tornado Warning went off shortly before that.  It was set to expire at 2:30PM so I went ahead and went to work.  When I got there, my coworker collected me and told me that they were in the dubious shelter of the receiving hallway.  Admittedly, the hallway is pretty well-built.  It is lined with brick walls that seem pretty heavy.  However, it also opens up onto the parking lot with two flimsy doors.  Those doors were open when I got there and they remained open the entire time that we were in the “shelter.”  We were told to stay there until the Warning expired–except it didn’t.  It just kept extended over and over again.  I couldn’t figure out why the mall manager wouldn’t just close the mall for the day.  Who the heck values possible sales after a freaking tornado more than he values the lives of all of us lowly mall employees?! 

In any case, we were all on edge.  There were people in there wondering about their kids–most of the schools go on lockdown in the event of a Tornado Warning and won’t let the kids leave until it is lifted.  Modern technology just made it worse too.  Every couple of seconds someone’s phone would beep with new updates from Twitter and Facebook…a twister just touched down in Waterville…one in Jumpertown…Baldwyn…Okolona…Shannon…Trebloc…Houston…Houlka.  The security guard kept saying that the worst storm was still to come–heading our way from Pontotoc.  He seemed worried that we were all going to die.  There was this nervous sort of tension around him that had me nervous…nervous and angry because I couldn’t understand (and still can’t understand!!) why the heck we were sitting there!  He was the worst until someone said a storm was headed for Verona, and really, Verona is Tupelo.  I still don’t know if one actually touched down there or not, but yesterday, the thought alone was terrifying.  Another report came in that said the tornado coming from Baldwyn was heading for Saltillo where I work.  We were in its path–until it changed its mind.  We waited for it to come, sitting huddled in that concrete hallway with the doors open, waiting to be blown away.  It was pretty intense. 

One of the girls who works at Victoria’s Secret noticed that a wall cloud had formed just outside of the mall.  We all stood and watched it.  I’m glad that I didn’t know what it was until afterwards or I really would have freaked out.  It was scary enough on its own.  It looked ominous, especially because so many people seemed to be afraid of it…

And then, at a little after 4PM, it was just over.  It was beyond weird.  There was another quick bout of bruising rain, and the air stayed hot and humid.  Tree limbs littered the streets when I left work yesterday and people seemed to all be nervously looking over their shoulders.  We stayed on Tornado Watch until 7PM, but nothing happened.  The danger had passed.  It had moved on to Alabama where it was frighteningly unforgiving.  I can’t even begin to imagine what they must have gone through if we were all so terrified by just the thought of a tornado coming to town…

Our Flooded Creek

And today.  Well.  Today is like it never even happened.  There are a few signs if you look.  The creek behind our house is flooded.  Branches are everywhere.  One fallen tree sits on the side of the road on Main Street.  My brother says that someone videotaped a small twister blowing past the back of Tupelo High School while they were on lockdown yesterday.  I’m not sure if I believe that–because kids can be pretty imaginative.  Either way though, life just goes on.  Mother Nature has already forgotten all of the havoc she caused this week.  These particular violent thunderstorms storms are moving out over the Atlantic Ocean and won’t be bothering anyone again.  It’s scary to think of because the people involved won’t soon forget at all.  Thoughts and prayers are for the families of those lost yesterday would be much appreciated.  Also, if you are able to give, a very generous person named Jason Asselin has set up a Facebook page that lists reputable places you can donate to or opportunities to provide support to communities throughout the South who were hurt by these storms. 

Thank you!  And enjoy your sunshine…you never know how long it will last…

Sincerely Yours,

The Butcher of the Bard

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