By now many of you have heard that devastating tornados came through the Midwest on November 17, 2013. For many of us this date will be remembered for the rest of our lives. Our town of Washington IL was hit hardest by the winds that were perhaps 190 mph. The path of destruction went diagonally through town from southwest to northeast.
Bob and I were at church before the tornado struck. We were on our way home when I photographed what looked like a tornado in the southwest. This is the direction that most storms come from. We heard the warning sirens going off as we reached our neighborhood. We went to the basement but were not too alarmed. There was some wind and rain but it wasn't that loud or frightening. We have had thunderstorms that did more damage and were scarier. Our power went out. I had shut down my phone because the battery was nearly dead. It seems whenever I forget to charge my phone I REALLY need it. After the storm Bob put on his running clothes and was tying his shoes when another small storm came up. We had no idea the first storm had done so much damage south of us. We didn't even have branches down in our yard nor did any of our neighbors. I was writing some notes and letters when I heard sirens going off, this time fire, ambulance, and police. I turned on my phone and saw multiple messages from friends and family asking us to please get in touch. It was difficult to get cell phone service but I was able to send text to say we were fine. Still, we had no idea how bad it was. Without power we did not have news. Bob's mom lives in a duplex in a neighborhood that is mostly single elderly people. We got in the car to check on her, figuring she was fine. At that time we saw helicopters flying over town and roads were blocked. By then it was obvious that the storm had done a lot of damage. With many roads closed we had to take a circuitous route to get to Alice's home. While in the car we were able to charge my phone and we called Nils. Nils said that it was all over the news. He told us that Devonshire Subdivision was hard hit and other parts. We were stunned. As we approached Bob's mom's street I got a sick feeling. We could barely recognize the houses. Hers was one of the worst on the street along with her duplex neighbor, Karla. Karla saw us right away and assured us that Alice was taken care of. It took us a while to find out exactly where she was. Her church was open as a shelter and she had been taken by a church member to this kind lady's home.
|This is Bob's mom's home. There was a garage on the left.|
|The pond at the church was littered with debris all along the edge and in the surrounding fields.|
Bob and I went to Crossroads which is an American Red Cross Disaster Shelter. I worked in the kitchen. It felt good to be able to do something to help. We still had not seen the news and would get bits of information about who had lost their homes. All this was beginning to sink in.
I'm not sure if you attend Crossroads UMC, but I am friends with the choir director, Julie Clemens. She and I are board members on a board for the American Choral Directors Association. I know she has been working at the church, doing laundry for those who would like to have clean clothes. Either way...just want you to know that you are being lifted up in prayer. I have experienced a tornado, an E2, which was something I never want to through again! Quite a surreal experience. Makes you realize how much we are not in control of our lives.
Take care and know lots of us are thinking of you and the people of Washington!
Oh, Paula. I'm so glad you're all safe. Your account of the storm and driving to your mother-in-laws house read as though I was there with you. Take good care. Best, Jan
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