I woke up to a weather alert around 1 AM. I was annoyed, because these little wolf-cryers are pains in the ass, right? I futzed around with the phone to quiet it down a bit, but it kept buzzing every few minutes with a new watch or warning announcement.
I got up and went into the kitchen to grab a drink of water. I looked up into the sky from the kitchen window. Lightning flared every few seconds. It reminded me of my stressful drive home from the Tellico Village Food Lion the night of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak. You could probably walk without aid of artificial light, as the glow in the sky never dissipated. The memory of the drive, probably the scariest I've ever made, came back fresh.
I went back to the bedroom. The rain began then. It wasn't raining, to that point.
I sat on the edge of the bed, and activated the local news channel's radar. There was a big patch of orange near me. I noted that one of the warnings was for Southwest McMinn County, and heading for Athens.
It was then that I heard the wind pick up. And I heard a constant rumble. Yeah, kinda like a train travelling in the distance. I headed toward the bathroom, grabbing a pair of sweatpants in the process. It'd be unfortunate enough to be caught in a tornado, even moreso to have to ride out the storm without proper pants. The bathroom of my apartment, which is an old house that's been converted into units, is probably the central most point of the building. I'm not sure I'd have been safe there, but it's the best I had.
I hunkered down in the bathroom for a couple minutes, sending Shyam a text message in the process. The power went out as I was writing.
I stayed there for a few more minutes, until I heard sirens. I got up. There were a lot of sirens. A LOT. Including a couple that ran by my apartment. Downtown Athens still had power, I could see. But I did not, nor my neighbors, nor anybody to the east, across the Oostanaula, the creek that runs right behind my building.
I went back in, and tried to sleep. To no avail. I got up again around 3, to look again outside. There were blue lights flashing about 200 yards up my road. And in a similar location on White Street, which runs parallel to the Oostanaula. I started to wonder then if something had blown through there.
I didn't sleep for the rest of the night.
I have to be at work at 6 most Wednesdays, which means leaving around 5:25. I left earlier, not knowing what road conditions look like. I sent a message to those coming in to drive carefully.
On my drive in, my buddy Chris sent a message, and my sister called. Another wave of storms was blowing in, complete with hail. I was concentrating on the road. I answered my sister's call, saying that I was driving, could I call her back?
It wasn't until I got to work that I realized how close the storm had come to me.
Behind my building is a parking area. And if you stand in that parking area, the parking lot to the Save a Lot shopping center is somewhere between 200 and 300 yards away.
That Save a Lot was hit hard by the storm, as well as C&D Tire. And the former Raceway gas station. These businesses are between 600 and 1100 feet from the apartment, all.
I had no idea until I got to work.
The storm proceeded across the park and wandered up route 307, tearing up a lot of stuff there.
There was a lot of checking in. People with me. Me with people. Everybody was safe.
I didn't have power until Thursday afternoon some time.
Here's WBIR's story on the storm....