continued to watch the Doppler radar on my computer Tuesday evening. It
is a habit I picked up since moving to Sumner County, Tennessee a few years
ago. This time, I watched with more than the usual alarm, as yellow and
red areas blanketed the screen. It was unlike anything I had ever
witnessed before. Typically, a yellow streak appears here or there, which
means a thunderstorm is present. Usually, it will fade off to the left of the
screen and away from Sumner.
However, this storm was very different. The entire screen illuminated in
bright red and yellow as though I had created some type of disturbed screen
saver on my computer. I knew immediately, there was no escape from this
And, it was enormous.
I ran to
the television and turned on the weather station. The weatherman appeared
extremely agitated, portraying barely concealed panic. His voice cracked, as he
waved his hands over the map beseeching everyone who could hear his voice to
take immediate cover. Yes, it was different this time. I brought
out the suitcases and my wife Donni-Jay and I hurriedly packed, dashing about
everywhere, almost running into each other in the process. Thoughts raced
through my head about what could be done to save our lives. One tries to fight
it, but fear still sets in.
thought we could make it back to the company where I work, just a few miles
down the road, and wait out the storm in their shelter. But, before I
could collect my thoughts, the television blared a tornado alarm. That
meant a tornado was on the ground! Outside, the wind began to pick up
speed, and the whole house rumbled. Lightning began to illuminate the
black sky. The weatherman continued to scream, and suddenly said, "A
tornado has touched down in Nashville!" I looked at the Doppler and
saw a particularly large red area right over the city. The red area
blanketed the entire city.
with mixed feelings that one looks at these types of disasters as they unfold.
On the one hand, terror grips your gut while you anticipate the monster as it
gets ready to devastate your world. There is no defense; no-one to
fight, nothing you can do. It is the most helpless feeling imaginable. On
the other hand, you are somewhat relieved that it has struck somewhere else,
instead of you and your loved ones. I continued to listen to the television and
watch the Doppler and hoped that it would lose steam over Nashville.
I have witnessed one of these red blobs in the past, it typically stalls over
an area momentarily, turns and then dissipates off the map. But this one
was different. The blob kept on coming straight for Sumner County and
quickly. That just did not seem possible. How could something
move that fast? It had to be traveling in excess of 60 miles per
hour. I knew in those terms that it could be on top of us in less than 20
renewed urgency and almost complete loss of co-ordination through subdued
panic, Donni-Jay and I packed clothing, our computers, some valuables and
camped in the vestibule that leads out to the back deck. Donni-Jay
maintained a vigil there while I went to the front door to look out. We
kept in contact via our walkie-talkie telephones and watched the sky. We were
both silently remembering the last tornado in 2006 which devastated the areas
just a few miles from us. I knew from experience, that tornadoes always
was black, but on the horizon, a huge flash of lightening started to track
across the north east sky. Above, I could see a huge black cloud, which I
later learned was the killer tornado. It was moving very quickly, and spat
huge lighting bolts from its gaping jaws. It appeared to be about 20 miles
away, and although evening and pitch black, it was still visible. A huge
and horrible sight, made more eerie by the backdrop of the night time sky.
minutes, a loud crack was heard, and then the explosion of cannons.
Simultaneously, the entire eastern skyline lit up as though the sun was about
to break the morning twilight. The monster had hit something big, and it
must have been a direct hit. Armageddon was upon us or so it seemed. I
ran back to Donni-Jay, and we held each other. An eerie silence ensued,
so we walked outside into a complete calmness and the heat of a summer day.
On one side of us, the sky continued to burn a bright orange, which we
knew to be a gas plant 25 miles away in Hartsville. The peace was broken by
fire-trucks as they raced by us with their sirens blasting.
quickly as the killer had approached, it had moved on to complete its mission
of destruction in Castillian Springs and then Trousdale County. Dozens
were about to lose their lives.
aftermath, we learned that several tornadoes cut a 200-mile swatch across
several states. People I work with lost their homes, and one former
co-worker lost his life when he traveled outdoors to search for his wife and
daughter. As it turned out, they had hidden inside a closet, but unfortunately
that was unknown to him at the time. The devastation was
unfathomable. Bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble on a daily
basis. Today, (Feb 8th) a priest and his entire family were killed in a freak
vehicle accident while they returned home from their volunteer work.The
devastation continues for a long time whenever a monster tornado hits.
never become immune or accustomed to these types of disasters. We
experienced one before, just a couple of years ago when our city took a direct
hit by an F4 tornado. But even the devastation of that monster could not
compare to this one. In weather circles, it is referred to as the perfect
storm. An unusual set of circumstances that occur once every 100 years
and spawn monster storms.
there is nothing perfect about these killers. And, one thing is certain.
To witness hell on earth is an experience from which one can never fully