Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornado Response

Here's the first report from our team in AL. ml

4/29 - 9:45 pm
We arrived at Hope church in Madison Alabama about 8 pm Tonight. Our trip here was mildly eventful ( as most of our trips have at least a little drama). John Horst drove one truck pulling a chain saw/ tool/ supply trailer, while i drove another truck with my family pulling our skid loader.

Just over the Alabama line, I noticed chunks of rubber being thrown up by our trailer, and thought how weird it was because I didn't remember seeing those on the road as I drove over them. One hit the cab of the truck, and I said to Babette," I hope those aren't from us."

About 2 miles later I caught more of them flying off the trailer tire, and realized they were from us as the vibration from the trailer became apparent. We pulled off on to the shoulder and checked the tire to see a large portion of the tread missing from the tire. We drove cautiously to the next exit and proceeded to change the mangled tire( still inflated praise God) with the spare ( which was also still inflated, praise God).

I had thrown my tools and a floor jack in with us since our track record with trailer tires on trips like this has historically been less than stellar. We had to unload the skid loader from the trailer in order for the jack to pick up the trailer.

45 minutes later we were back on the road. At mile marker 66 on I-59, we saw the first evidence of tornadic activity as we passed the Mercedes Benz assembly plant just south of Tuscaloosa. There was a swath of trees on both sides of the highway that were snapped off and twisted like wet toothpicks about 100 yards wide. There were sheets of tin roofing laying twisted up like ribbon in the median, and small branches and twigs laying on both shoulders.

Every so many miles we would see similar sights sporadically along our route. As we drove farther north and into birmingham, we saw several damages houses, flipped over out buildings and even a motel that was just walls with no roof. We needed to stop for fuel and picked a random exit since many of the signs were blown down. We found a place that was open, but the guy behind the glass enclosure told me," Don't got none. We all out."
We drove north to the next exit and after negotiating the string of traffic, we were finally able to get to a truck stop, where we tried to fill up using our credit cards at the pump, only to find out that we had to pay cash because their processing system was down. We emptied our wallets and came up with enough cash to fill the thirsty monsters with 1/2 a tank each, which would get us to our destination.

We continued our trek north not seeing much more obvious damage until about 10 miles from the church. Police were directing traffic at intersections because the lights weren't operating, we began to see trees down in yards and on roofs, we saw what used to be a mobile home strewn across an open yard, and billboards that were bent backwards or simply just a pole completely missing the top.

Darkness was setting in and it was obvious who were the haves and the have nots in the generator department. A convenience store and a CVS store were the only things lit up along the road.

We turned off the main road onto a side road, and weaved our way around downed branches and through passages cut out of trees which earlier had blocked the road, and met Pastor Andy Wulff at Hope church. The church had been spared major damage, but there was leaf debris in the parking lot and a tree down in the front yard.

Andy's wife a 5 children had left to go and stay with family in Indianapolis after the storm, so he had several beds to offer us. We left the one truck and trailer at the church with the skidloader as well, and drove the 10 minutes from the church to his house through the eerie darkness seeing homes that normally would be bathed in exterior lamps and accent lighting, now only showing dim candlelight through the open windows.

We arrived at his house, unloaded our things by flashlight, all the while being serenaded by a chorus of droning generators. We discussed how the storms and tornados 2 days ago came and went all day long from 6 am till 8 pm all seemingly following the same track and damaging the same areas time and time again throughout the entire day.

We are expecting 20 church folks to show up at Hope tomorrow at 8 am to gather with us and move out into the community to share the love of Christ with those in need by helping them clean up their yards, cut down trees and pray for them however God leads.

We will help the church set up some awnings and prepare for their modified outside Sunday program, stage our equipment and return to New Orleans to meet up with our newly recruited group of 8 or so people from Texas, Montana and Wisconsin Sunday night, then return to Madison again to be Gods hands and feet on Monday for at least A few weeks. Won't you come and join us? If you can't, maybe you could give finically, or at the very least, but most importantly, PRAY!


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