Friday, April 29, 2011

April 27 2011 Alabama Tornado Outbreak - More Thoughts.

So much to talk about. I wanted to keep this separate from my usual chase log which can be seen here.

First off the tornado itself. It was by far the creepiest, scariest and loudest tornado I have witnessed. Sure, the visual appearance to people who only live through the event from behind their screens may not understand why but allow me to shed some light.

As we found the view we did we watched the storm approach for quite some time before the tornado emerged. When you chase tornadoes, seeing them is often somewhat fast paced. You get in position, you watch the sky and BAM a tornado forms but this was different. This tornado was already ongoing long before I got a view of it. It slowly emerged from the rain until it finally and obviously made its presence known. I was further away than I prefer to be, but I could hear the echoing of it tearing through the forest over the hill tops. It was by far the loudest tornado I have ever heard.

Its hard to put to words but when you chase you have a feeling of adrenaline that keeps things exciting and pumped. That was not the case here...the tornado was moving incredibly fast, yet the whole experience seemed like in slow motion. The tornado just came into view, did its thing and moved on, as if ignoring my presence.

It was like seeing a ghost step through a hallway in a cheesy horror film.

Just like that it was over as debris began to rain down on us. We would catch another view of it as we tried to pursue it, but the whole time I just felt incredibly "put in my place" by this tornado. It would not wait for me, and nothing would stop it from charging on its way. It came, I saw it, it conquered. I was not cut off by the damage as if the tornado was saying "Ha, nice try!"

As we stopped to survey the damage some distraught and injured locals approached us. Their house had been hit down the road but they were all accounted for and their injuries weren't life threatening. We provided them with some bandaids and clean tissue to dress the wounds as well as water. Volunteer fire was now arriving and took control of the scene and we moved on.

All throughout the day this situation played out. Damage blocking road and locals approaching us. Many trying to simply figure out a way they can get by to check on loved ones and in some cases just to see if their house or business down the road survived or not. We tried to help clear trees when we could, but there was simply too much.

As the day went on a new problem would arise. Power outages and the need for gas. As a rule I don't like to chase with less than half a tank of gas because in my mind I always somehow pictured this possibly happening. I stopped at station after station after station after station. Same story. No power. Each station had people already stranded there and out of gas. One station had generators going, but it was to keep ice cream from melting. Really?!

We pressed on and 200 miles later my tank was on E. I stopped in Decatur, AL out of options. No fuel, no power. I was prepared to spend as much time as needed there. Luckily fellow chasers came to my aid. I owe Ben Holcomb and Bill Oosterban all my gratitude for helping me get out of the predicament. Bill came with 5 gallons and I was able to drive north and get more fuel. I rationed it with a few other people at the stop, who then followed us to the station with power. Bill was leading the way.

The town was pandemonium, but at least in a non chaotic way. Fuel lines were 20 cars deep, as well as all the lines at fast food places. So many people displaced. So many people with no food, gas or anywhere to sleep. All the motels were swamped. I was amazed and never experienced such a disastrous event in this way before. I tried to help as many people as I can in small ways, but felt bad I could not do more.

Ive been called a fool for chasing down there, and some tell me Im stupid and wasting money. I fail to see the logic, sure I didn't see the big dramatic Mississippi and Tuscaloosa tornadoes because I was not on that storm but I successfully documented and tracked a major tornado in a difficult area, and in my first attempt at chasing down there too. Quite an accomplishment in my books.

This event brought it all into perspective for me. Storm chasing is what I love to do. I documented the severe weather, including a tornado that not many else saw. I was able to help out many people in small ways. Far from a waste. If I could, I would be there each and everytime this happens, but unfortunately am limited in my own means to do so. Unfortunately it will happen again someday and I hope I can be there.

That is all for now, more may come later.


Toyin O. said...

Wow, you are so brave and adventorous; thanks for sharing.

Adam L said...

Thank You!