Looking back at 4/27/11

the last wave passed over us at 4pm
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, is a day that I and most every other Alabamian will always remember. Multiple tornadoes ripped across the state, killing hundreds of people and destroying entire communities.  Thankfully, my farm was spared any damage as most of the severe storms bypassed Lamar County.  Other than a few wind-bent pieces of tin roof on a tractor shed, the inconvenience of a 30 hour power outage at home (we have a generator at our dairy barn) was the only direct effect we experienced.

tornado damage in Phil Campbell
Thousands of others were not as lucky, including many not too terribly far from us. Tuscaloosa (55 miles to our southeast) sustained a direct hit and suffered the loss of many lives, homes, and businesses.  Even closer than that, the small towns of Smithville, MS (25mi NW), Hackleburg (35mi NE), and Phil Campbell (45mi NE) were virtually destroyed.  I helped deliver supplies to Phil Campbell as part of a mission team from my church on Sunday evening, but the photos and news coverage I had seen didn't really prepare me for sheer scope of destruction left in the wake of these storms. There wasn't much left standing where the tornadoes touched down, just a wide swath of downed trees, demolished vehicles, and collapsed houses.

farmer Dan Smalley's chicken houses
were all destroyed or damaged
Alabama's agriculture industry was particularly hard hit. The last reports I have seen report over 3 million chickens were killed as 200 poultry houses were destroyed and over 500 others were significantly damaged.  I also received a text Wednesday afternoon stating that a dairy farm in Morgan County had taken a direct hit. Friends and acquaintances of mine lost barns, sheds, and even homes. Thankfully, I have yet to hear of anyone I know being counted among the dead or seriously injured, and I pray that remains the case.

A week has passed since the deadly storms, and relief work continues in every effected community across the state.  As I remarked after leaving Phil Campbell Sunday evening, it's hard to see destruction like that and not be awed by the power of nature. But more importantly, it's impossible to see the volunteer-ism and support given in the relief effort thus far and not be awed by the love and power of God.  We Alabamians know how to pull together and help each other out, and we will continue to do so all throughout the process of recovery and rebuilding.

We are weakened yet still strong.  We are bruised but more resilient than ever.  We are Alabama.

In closing, I'd like to thank all of you who called, texted, tweeted, etc., to check on my family during and after the storms. I appreciate your thoughts and concerns, and ask for you to continue to keep the people of Alabama in your prayers.  Below I've included a few other ways you can help, as well as links to a few related storm stories and coverage.