Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tornado Too Close to Home

You may have seen it on the news, but Springfield, MA just had a tornado on Wednesday, June 2 at about 4:30pm.  NOTE: This is going to be a long post with tons of pictures. Let me start by saying,


Our house has very minor damage, but there's nothing to really worry about.  We've been without power since the event, but we stayed a couple nights with friends from the ward, and since the power box got ripped from the house, our landlord has been working hard to make sure that we can get power when the electric company turns it back on.  We're told that we should get power back today, but that's a little more optimistic than we expected.  

If you haven't heard our miracle story yet, read on.  If you have, or just don't care about all the details, you're welcome to just skip to the pictures of devastation.  :)

Miracles Do Happen
I usually leave about 4:15pm to go get Mark from work.  Wednesday I ended up leaving a little later than I wanted to, so I texted Mark to inform him.  I walked out the door and thought to myself, "This feels like tornado weather."  I brushed it off because I needed to get downtown to the courthouse to pick up Mark.  I was driving along Central St., (remember these street names!! may want to have a map of Springfield handy as you read this post!) and heard the radio emergency broadcast  mention a tornado warning in Western Massachusetts/ Northern Connecticut, but I missed about half of the warning because it went fuzzy.  Through the static I heard "Springfield" but couldn't tell what it was saying.  I started to get nervous but just didn't want to make a big deal of it.  Then I turned right onto Maple Rd.  I looked up and saw really low dark clouds that began circling.  It wasn't quite a funnel cloud, but it was still too close for comfort.  As I got to the intersection of Maple Rd. and State St., I could see tons of debris flying everywhere.  Debris was hitting my car (and Canon was in the back seat), and I just received a text from Mark to meet him by the mailboxes (which is where we go when it's raining).  I started praying for Mark's safety, hoping that he was okay, not outside where he could be blown away or hit with huge chunks of who-knows-what.  I turned left onto State St, watching debris still going everywhere, trying to get through to Mark who should have been only 2 blocks ahead of me.

Meanwhile, Mark was standing outside and saw that there was airborne debris and tried to get back into the courthouse.  It was locked but a security guard let him back in through the emergency exit.  He could see the tornado as it passed right over the highway and passed the courthouse and headed straight up toward Maple Rd. and the direction where I just came from.  So he was worrying for our lives.

My car seemed to be holding up just fine, no rocking from wind or anything, so I kept right on driving. When I got to the courthouse, Mark was standing outside at the top of the steps.  He got in the car and we drove around the block like we always do, but it was not an easy drive.  (I apologize for the fuzzy pictures.  These were taken by my phone in a moving vehicle.)

trees down by the courthouse

East Columbus Ave. blocked by fallen trees

On-Ramp to I-91 was stopped by fallen trees

We had to maneuver around this to drive along East Columbus Ave.

The old park in downtown had huge trees up-rooted everywhere.

This was our first view of the damage down by this tornado.

Canon and I were playing at this park the day before as we waited for Mark to get off of work.
We tried to drive back the same direction I came, but everyone was turning around.  We couldn't get through.  It looks like I drove parallel to the tornado and around it as it passed.  I just barely missed it.

This is the intersection of Maple Rd. with Central St.  That school on the left was surrounded by beautiful trees.  If you zoom in you might be able to see how broken they look.

This was the first bock we came to:  Central St. just minutes after I drove this very spot
 We turned around on Maple Rd. heading back toward State St.  We thought about using Union St. to get to Walnut, but then we saw a blockage before we even turned onto Union St.  So we continued to State St.  We turned right continued along until Walnut St.  Once we noticed the seriously long line of cars, we abandoned that idea and continued along State St. until Wilbraham Rd.  We finally got onto Island Pond Rd, which would lead us right home, but we came to another blockade, just a few blocks down from our street, right by a church.
Island Pond Rd. had some of the worst damage, but we couldn't get through to even see what happened. We heard there were several telephone poles were knocked down and many damaged homes.
St. Anthony Church used to be surrounded by a beautiful forest.

Here you can see some of those trees were uprooted and split.
 We were turned around on Island Pond, and we tried going up Overlook Dr. which goes between that St. Anthony Church and Bethesda Church and would take us into our neighborhood.

This car was parked on the side of Overlook Dr. when the tree was knocked over.  The uprooting action lifted the car off the ground.  The houses in the background are on Island Pond Rd.
 We drove along Overlook Dr. and turned right onto Wendover Dr. (getting soooo close to home...) but that was blocked off at the top of the hill.  Coming back to Overlook Dr, we couldn't turn right to make our way to Roosevelt Rd. because there was a blockage there too.  So we had to make our way back down to Island Pond Rd. and turn onto Roosevelt.  Turned out that was blocked off too.  Seriously, we were running out of options and couldn't find a way to get to our house.  So, after an hour of driving around and being redirected every route we chose, we just parked our car on Overlook Dr. (on the other side of the blockage) and hiked it home with Canon in the stroller.  

The top of Wendover Dr., after most of the way was cleared for foot traffic.
 As we walked over the hill, we heard that Cathedral High School was completely trashed.  Knowing how close to home that was, we were starting to worry about whether our house was even there anymore.  (Just to put it into perspective for you, Cathedral High (attached to St. Michael's Academy) is across the street from Mary Dryden Elementary (right next to another building for St. Michael's Academy), on the other side of the elementary school is a playing field/baseball diamond, and about 6-7 houses after the field is OUR HOUSE.)  On the other side of the hill were the schools, and we were shocked at what we saw.
St. Michael's Academy Pre-K to 12... note the overturned car and school in the background.

another view of the same parking lot...more overturned cars in view

a telephone pole down across Wendover Dr.

Cathedral/St. Michael's had windows blown out and doors missing.  We later  found that the football stadium was completely demplished.

The roof of Mary Dryden Elementary caved in...

and much of that roof ended up on the street.

another view of Mary Dryden Elementary

still Mary Dryden

the beautiful trees on Cathedral's campus all uprooted

Look at this tree at Mary Dryden.
The stop sign ahead is the intersection with Surry Rd...our street.  

it uprooted the SIDEWALK!!

Now on Surrey Rd, passing up Mary Dryden.

Another view of Mary Dryden and campus.  The fallen trees missed the playground.

Our neighborhood

Hurrying home along Surrey Rd. as the rain started up again.

The field used to have a backdrop of pretty they look like broken sticks.

Surrey Rd, coming closer to home

Didn't expect to be hiking through a jungle when I woke up that morning!!
Daddy took the stroller, Mommy took the baby through the jungle.

Canon didn't even seem the slightest bit phased by all of this.

My friend Melissa's house- she lives 4 doors down from us.
Stephanie's house, across the street from Melissa

A different angle of Steph's house
This is our house.  We're so glad I wasn't home because our car would've been right where that pile of trees and branches is.  I don't think it would have survived.

Once you get past the big pile, you could really only find one route to get in, the back yard.

The shed was destroyed, along with our lawnmower, box spring, bike and probably our rake (if we could find it).

The fence was broken too, but at least those were in big pieces and look like they can be nailed back together without too much effort.
I can't remember where this is, but it's a good example of what the neighborhoods look like now.
That night we had a few people from the ward come over to check on us and see if there was anything that they could do.  Since it was still storming and getting darker, we couldn't really do much until the morning.  We stayed the night at a friend's house because they had power.  (It was amazing that they were within walking distance and somehow had power, and the neighborhoods on the other side of them did not.  They were in a convenient pocket of electricity...but they didn't have internet...hence why this post didn't happen until today.) We stayed there the following night too, but the third night we stayed at home.  Since the weather cooled off, it's not too bad to be at home without AC.  We had to move all the food from the fridge to coolers with ice, but we still lost some of the food.  

We took some more pictures of what we saw the following day.  I will spare you the captions now since you probably have no idea what I'm talking about anyway, but you can get a look at the damage to our house and the rest of the neighborhood.

Missionaries and men from church came to help chop up the trees in our front yard.

Damage to our house...power box and meter ripped off 

Flying debris punctured a hole in the side of the house and knocked the trim off the wall in Canon's room.  Light shines in through this little hole.

This is the hole into Canon's room.

We think this is the board that caused said hole.

What used to be our shed in the back yard

The final product of all the work the ward members did for us.