Guest Blog from Alena Hart, Community of Preparedness Moderator; Redfora Marketing Contractor
On Thursday, March 26th 2021 a rare but powerful EF-4 tornado ripped through Newnan, Georgia. With winds of 170 MPH (more than hurricane force), many homes were severely damaged, with many destroyed. This first-hand account comes from Redfora team member, Alena Hart who shares the tips her family took to be prepared and stay safe.
“I think they’re about to call a tornado warning for Newnan.” my husband whispered to me at 11:42 PM. He had stayed up watching the weather channel. His persistent nudging beforehand made me grumpy, but those words from a place of calmness got me up quickly. I knew we would only have a few minutes to grab our two young sons and our emergency kits before heading to our safe spot in the basement.
(Image of our emergency kits with helmets buckled on ready to go to our basement)
I hastily jumped in my slip-on tennis shoes that I placed beside my bed for just such an occasion. My husband was ready to go with his headlamp, coat, and shoes to run next door to wake his parents (yes, they are next door!) and ensure they also met us in our designated safe spot. When he returned, we both grabbed our children who were asleep in their beds, our dog in his crate, hoisted our emergency kits on our backs, and made our way down to our basement.
Once we got down to our basement, I huddled my children under a sturdy wooden table that sits against the concrete foundation of our home and constantly reassured them that everything was going to be okay.
My husband grabbed some duct tape out of our emergency kit and picked up an old towel that we had brought down with us to tape to the small window that was on the door of our basement leading outside. The idea was that the towel may prevent the glass from shattering on or near us in the event the tornado got too close.
I placed helmets on my sons’ heads and had my husband tether them to me with bedsheets - a trick I learned over a decade ago when I was a nanny in this same situation with four little ones that I was responsible for keeping safe. We just had to play a little game of “hide and seek” with the tornado. “If we can pick a great hiding spot, then the tornado won’t see us and we’ll be safe,” I told my kids. They were appeased and felt at ease with my little game.
We each made phone calls or texted our family and friends that were sprawled out around the city to ensure they were awake and in their designated safe spots. Once we received confirmation that our loved ones were also storm aware, my in-laws then flipped on the television to The Weather Channel, and we stayed quiet to listen.
I’ll never forget Glenn Burns announcing, “ There’s been a massive EF-4 tornado spotted in downtown Newnan. It’s catastrophic!” We all snuggled in close under the sturdy table, ready for anything.
Next thing we knew, the power went out. I knew we’d be alright if there was a major power outage as we had our trusted hand-crank radio/ flashlight/ phone charger and had made it a point to charge three backup power sources earlier in the evening. All back up power tools had been placed in our emergency kit that were on our backs.
After a few short minutes, the power came back on and with it, the cable. We continued to monitor the tornado and watched as it jumped around our county damaging 1,700 homes, ultimately leaving 400 families displaced. It also destroyed the oldest historical high school in our community.
(Image of a house in Newnan after the EF-4 tornado ripped through)
After spending nearly an hour and a half in our safe spot (the longest we’d ever spent taking cover from a severe storm), the tornado warning had been removed from our area and we headed back upstairs. We felt thankful that we had faired the storm well. Our home showed no damage from the high winds, and I could tuck my children back in their beds knowing they were safe from any potential harm. We were lucky and prepared, but many in our city could not say the same.
As I logged onto social media, personal stories were shared of folks who lost everything during the tornado but actually slept through the whole event. Some people shared they had no clue there was going to be a potential tornado, never got in safe locations and glass from windows had shattered on them.
Hundreds of people were trapped on roads blocked from trees or even inside their homes. It took a whole weekend of our community coming together with emergency management officials to cut families who were stranded in their homes without power, cable, or running water.
(Image of trees on top of a house due to the tornado)
It was clear that this disaster may have only been on the ground for over an hour, but our community will be dealing with the devastation for years to come.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye; it surely did for my community. It’s never too early to create your emergency plan and prepare your home with supplies in case you are to be without running water or electricity for days while help arrives. You may find yourself in a vulnerable position, but you’ll never regret doing everything you can to keep your family safe from harm’s way.