The Storm

If you have been reading my blog for over a year, then you probably already know this story. I can’t help but to share it again as I remember the tragic events that took place on April 27th, 2011.

If you lived under a rock, or don’t care about the South East half of the country, you may have missed one of the worst tornado outbreak in history. April 27, 2011 358 tornadoes broke out, taking with them 349 people and my heart.

I have mentioned in posts before about how I am a big scardy cat baby when I even hear the threat of bad weather. By bad weather, I am talking tornado, or sever thunderstorm that could be damaging wind weather. When the sky turns a funky color, my heart starts racing and I can’t focus on anything but weather updates. I have been like this all my life. Perhaps to prepare me for April 27, 2011.

The day started out on a dark note for me. I woke up knowing something was going to happen, I just didn’t know to whom and to what extent. I woke up, and did my usual routine. Chris and I both worked in downtown Birmingham at the time, across the street from each other. We commuted together every day, and this day was no different. As I sat at work, I was constantly checking the weather. You see, when we left in the morning, it was bright, warm and sunny. A disaster for unstable weather if you are expecting storms that day. There was talk about possibly shutting down early if things were to get bad, but we were playing it by ear. Cahaba Heights and other areas were hit very early that morning with the first round of storms that came through. Nothing too horrific, but some major damage. There was a lot of wind damage through the state actually. I remember my dad calling me to tell me he had some trees down at his house. Little did he know that these trees were the least of his problems.

Shit started to get real when we were watching the tornado coverage in Mississippi. Then it started tracking into Alabama. I remember sitting in our office watching the tornado come right through Tuscaloosa. This is only about 45 minutes away from us. It was unreal. Chris and I made the decision to get on home, and left work. I remember driving up I-59, and Chris was checking the weather on his phone. The weather channel was showing that it wasn’t even really going to rain much more. It didn’t seem serious now. We decided to go to Starbucks, and we sat outside on the patio. The wind started to pick up some, and Chris decided that maybe he wanted to pick up some cigars for himself to enjoy in our sun room at home.

We headed to go get those, but most of the tobacco stores were closed, so we decided to just head home. It started to get pretty nasty pretty quickly on our way back to our house. It started raining, and the sky started turning those funky colors before a nasty storm comes. I started to cook dinner, it was pork chops and roasted potatoes. The meal was about 15 minutes away from being done, and Chris and I were watching the weather on TV. It looked like a long tracking tornado was making it’s way right for us. We quickly made the decision to turn off the oven, pack up our dogs and head to his parents house where there is a basement.

At the time, our rental house was about 10 minutes from his parents house. We got in my car, and I sat in back with the dogs as Chris drove our way through the pouring down rain, very heavy rain and debris filled the streets to his parents. The debris at the time was from tree limbs and other such nature that was falling due to the winds.

We got to the house and got the dogs inside. We ran upstairs and they were telling everyone to take cover, that the storm was right over us. We all ran downstairs to the basement and took cover by the back wall near the dogs. Chris and his dad went upstairs for a minute, and they heard/saw rotation in the sky and came running back down.

Luckily for us, the storm happened to not make land fall and skip over our area, and land in St. Clair County.

As soon as the storm passed through, it started to calm down and Chris and I headed back to our house. I texted my dad, sister and mom and let them know that we were OK. I told my dad and my sister that it was coming for them.

My sister was at home by herself with 2 of my nephews. Her husband was at work, and her in-laws were across the street. Her mother-in-law called her to come on over, as she usually does in bad weather. For whatever reason, my sister felt she should stay at her house.

She took my nephews and some pillows and blankets and hunkered down in her hallway that led back to the bedrooms.

Minutes after Chris and I got home my mom called my cell phone, she was hysterical. She was crying and screaming and I couldn’t hardly understand her. Then I realized what she was saying. The tornado landed in Shoal Creek, my sister lost her house and is outside looking for her in laws. She called my mom screaming and crying after it went through, and they lost connection. My mom was unable to get a hold of her again and didn’t know what to do. She knew she couldn’t leave to come up there because there were hundreds of trees down blocking the roads.

I called my dad. He didn’t answer at first, then called me right back. He too lost his house. He, his wife, and a few other guys from the fire department were out helping people when they saw the storm coming and took shelter in a pantry that was built in under the stairs in his house. There was more of his house standing than my sisters, but it was a total loss. He told me that he was going to start cutting trees up and try to get to my sister. She needed help because she was trying to find her father in law and mother in law.

My dad never made it to my sister that night. They live about 2 miles from each other and there were just too many trees down, and too many people around his house that needed help. What was left of his house became a triage for the rest of the area. As he went to the area he could get to, he was pulling people out and sending them to his wife for her to help them in any way she could.

My sister eventually found her in-laws. They were thrown a good bit away from their house, landed next to each other in the yard. My sister’s father in law was not alive, and her mother in law was barely breathing and injured. My sister was also part of the fire department, and called for medical help. They landed a helicopter to take her mother in law to the hospital.

Unfortunately, her mother in law did not make it. She passed a few days later, never to come conscience. There was a joint funeral for them. The funeral home was in Pell City, and the burial was in Shoal Creek Valley at their church’s graveyard. I have never been to a funeral were there were so many people. Chris and I had to stand in the back because they ran out of seating. I never made it up to the front to view or see my sister or any of her family because the line was so long that they had to cut it off and start the service. When it was over, I ran to the back to hug my sister. I can’t imagine going through something like that. She had just turned 23 a month before all this happened.

The processional line to drive to the grave side service was just as long as the line in the funeral home. It was so long, and there were so many cars that the back half the line missed part of the grave side service. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen though. The National Guard and about 300 volunteers were meeting at a gas station on the corner of a road we had to cross to get to the grave side. All of the National Guard stood still, with their hats over their hearts…and all the volunteers lined up around the corner as well as our line of cars made its way through the rubble that was left of the area. I felt like it was a scene out of the movies or something. I cried, silently, the rest of the way to the grave side.

Net and Charlie were amazing people. They are missed greatly. They took my nephew Christopher in as their own. They were amazing parents and grandparents and we were lucky to know them for as long as we did.


In this video link below, around 2:52 in, they show my sister’s house. It was brick on the front, you can’t really tell. See the purple wall on the right side? That was my niece’s bedroom…there were other bedrooms there too but they are gone. A tree branch was stuck in the engine of my sisters Ford Expedition. Right through the motor, it was considered totaled as well.

After the funeral, I took my nephews home with me. My mother in law and sister in law cooked a dinner for my sister and her family, and took it to them. I was so thankful they wanted to help as well. I know it meant a lot to everyone.
I took my nephews back to my house. On the way home, my tire blew. Go figure. I had picked up some nails from all the debris that we had driven through. There was a nice couple that was coming back from another funeral, and they stopped and helped us.
Christopher was exhausted. He told me that he hadn’t been sleeping good because every time he closed his eyes, he could hear his mom screaming and the storm coming over their house. He was 6 at the time, Cooper was 1.
It has been a long road of recovery for everyone in Alabama since April 27, 2011. The weatherman are careful when they use terms to warn us of bad weather. Every week since then, the weather and news crews are in a different city around here programming weather radios for people.
This is James Spann. He is the best weatherman on the entire planet. Everyone in Alabama knows that if this man is on TV, has his suspenders on and his sleeves rolled up wheeling out his Mac Book, that shit is about to get real! He had been warning us for days before April 27 that is was going to be bad, and he has been there for us ever since.
Say what you want about Alabama. We get a lot of trash talk from other states that think they are better. Let me tell you something about this state. I have NEVER in any of the years I spent in Georgia, Missouri or Pennsylvania, have I EVER seen everyone come together for strangers. The amount of people that poured through Shoal Creek Valley alone was amazing. The very next morning after the storms blew through here, everyone was out and about asking what they could do to help someone. Anyone. These people who came out to help reminded me of how good the world still is, despite all the bad things that happen from time to time. You can no have good without evil. You can not have happy without sad.
My sister and her family of 4, 6 every other weekend when they have my nieces…had to live in an RV on their land for 6 months. I don’t know how they did it. I am so thankful that their insurance company settled everything and did right by them. My dad and his wife did not move into their new home until June of this past year. Their insurance company was a nightmare to deal with.
Here are a few pictures of my sister’s house going up. Both my sister and my dad built on the same land and foundation that their original houses sat.
The back yard. The house you see in the upper left corner is still there today, looking the exact same way. The people who lived there did not have home owners insurance. They still own the land so nothing can be done about it.
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  • Reply Jules April 27, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Totally crying reading this. It’s insane to think about what Mother Nature can do – We had Hurricane Sandy here and it ruined everything and that is nothing compared to a tornado. Your family seems so strong!

  • Reply Amanda April 27, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Wow. I’m honestly at a loss for words and you know that NEVER happens. I can’t even imagine going through something like this. It’s one of my worst fears.

  • Reply Ralph Marion April 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I just read your blog, and it brought back some many memories about that day. I remember exactly what I was doing and what I did during that afternoon/evening. I am so glad that everyone I knew was okay, but it pains me to know that people lost their lives or lost loved ones. No one ever think that stuff like that would ever happen in Alabama, and April 27 showed that we show always expect the unexpected. I hope that you and your family and friends keep safe today and that everyone will make it through this bad weather with no damage of property or life.

  • Reply Meredith April 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Nadine, thank you for sharing this story. I can’t imagine the heartbreak your family endured, but I am overjoyed to see the photos of the houses going up. Focusing on progress and rebuilding has been so important for everyone. I was in Tuscaloosa on April 27th, and witnessed that tornado destroy many things I loved as I watched from my window, horrified. I rarely revisit that day in my head, but each year I am reminded of the strength and courage in this state as people share their stories. I’m thankful you’ve shared yours. Stay safe today.

  • Reply Laura April 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story; that was incredible to read. People in Alabama really do know how to come together when shit gets bad.

  • Reply Lindsay | Broke and Bougie April 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Wow what a powerful story. Prayers to you and your family

  • Reply Lauren April 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    So, so sad. I can’t imagine what it was like for your sister to find her in-laws in that state. I can’t imagine what total loss is like. My cousin and her family live in Norman, OK who got hit badly with tornadoes last year and until it affects someone you know in real life, I don’t think you ever really get the severity of what these storms do. I can’t imagine everything I know being reduced to nothing, and it’s so sad that other parts of the country are dealing with this again today. Mother Nature is kind of a bitch sometimes…

  • Reply Kerry April 29, 2014 at 1:57 am

    What a horrible and tragic experience to go through. Mother Nature is so unpredictable and I so thankful you told your story.

  • Reply Confessions - Life By Nadine Lynn April 27, 2016 at 12:02 am

    […] to surface. If you have no clue what I am talking about, I shared my family’s personal story here. I watched that video again when I went back to find that post and tears just streamed down my […]

  • Reply Rach @ This Italian Family April 28, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I remember these storms so vividly. We had been in Tuscaloosa for A-Day less than 2 weeks before the storms hit. My college roomie was in graduate school at the University of Alabama so she showed off her new town to us. We had an awesome time during our weekend there. Then in the blink of an eye the town that we had just come to know was devastated. I remember being so grateful to hear her voice on the phone that day and to know that she was okay. It was nightmare-ish reading about all the lives lost and seeing clips on the news. I shed a lot of tears that day. I’m so sorry that you and your loved ones had to actually experience it. And so sorry to hear that your sister lost her parents-in-law. So tragic. Thinking of you today on this anniversary week.

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