Update: If you want to help out in the efforts to recover from the storm, bookmark this page that centralizes all information. At this point, financial donations and blood are needed.
As I’ve said before, the organization I choose to support is the local Salvation Army since 100% of donations made during disasters go to that fund.
I intend to write a long post about the storms and tornados that ripped across the South last night, but I’m still gathering my thoughts and information.
I’ve been back in Chattanooga for a few days and experienced the storm at my parents house in Hixson, a suburb of Chattanooga. We were basically in the center of it.
Even though I’ve lived through tornadoes (one of my earliest memories is of a tornado we lived through in Oklahoma when I was 2), yesterday was one of the scariest days of my life. I’ve never seen a day of storms that was so unrelenting. It was almost as though we were experiencing a hurricane without the storm surge.
For my friends and readers outside of this area, I’m safe. My parents and their dogs are safe. We didn’t experience as much damage in this part of Hamilton County. Even my entire extended family, which is scattered around northern Alabama is safe. Praise God for that.
My father was in northern Alabama for his job yesterday and had to hunker down in a concrete building in Boaz. Since he was getting the weather about an hour before us, he kept us updated with what to expect. Every time we talked to him, he said a tornado siren was going off, and tornadoes were within five miles of his location.
There are number of sobering videos and pictures. Ringgold, Georgia and Apison, Tennessee — two communities right outside of Chattanooga, were devastated. Ringgold is actually closed at the city limits. They took the brunt of the storm. Below is a video of the tornado that hit Ringgold.
It’s almost numbing to look at pictures and footage. This wasn’t some far away natural disaster. This happened in my backyard and the community where I grew up. My friends and family could have easily been hurt or killed since there’s no easy way to protect yourself against a tornado aside from taking shelter. I think a lot of us in the area are shell-shocked.
At the time that I write this, the AP has reported fatalities throughout the South: Alabama: 131 dead, Mississippi: 32 dead, Tennessee: 24 dead, Georgia: 13 dead, Virginia: 8 dead, Kentucky: 1 dead. As the Weather Channel noted last night, this was a historic series of tornadoes.
However, we will survive. This part of the country takes care of it’s own. Last year, I wrote about the historic floods that hit Nashville:
We didn’t get the name Volunteer State because of football. Tennessee has a legacy of stepping up and quietly taking care of problems as they arise. We’re a strong and determined people, and Tennesseans will rally around the middle part of our state to help them rebuild. Communities are coming together, and neighbors are helping neighbors. While it would be nice to get national attention to help raise funds to rebuild and help the thousands of families who are now homeless, I’m proud of the independence of my state.
I was correct. Nashville recovered without ever even an acknowledgement of the diaster from the White House. The damage in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee will be the same. We’ll band together as communities and help each other out.
Already, there are ways that you can help. You can donate to the local Salvation Army here. You can also text the word “Give” to 80888.
If you want to keep up with what’s going on here and in the region, I highly recommend following my Twitter friend, Dan Lehr at @public_interest. Dan works for the local ABC affiliate, News Channel 9, (which did an amazing job of local coverage yesterday), and is constantly putting out information that you can trust.