Friday night, Atlanta was hit with its very first tornado. We were lucky enough to be right inside the twister and saw it first hand. Also lucky: we came out just fine and nobody was hurt. There was property damage aplenty, but we didn't see anyone in our neighborhood that was seriously hurt. Here's the view from the house we were in on Friday night. Though, the street was seriously cleaned up by the time I took this photo:
Friday night we were at Shannon and Ali's house in the basement trying to watch a movie on his big screen. The power went out right after we got there, so we didn't get past the previews. We sat in the dark for a few minutes laughing at our timing, "we didn't even get to the opening credits, ha ha ha!" The wind and rain started to pick up, so I went upstairs to check on the cat who had been on the back porch. As I got to the back door and opened it to the porch, I saw the huge trees in the backyard swaying and moving like they should not have been moving. These 100 foot trees were whipping around like a huge hand was shaking them apart. All I could see was wind and rain, and the rain was moving sideways being blown really hard from left to my right, (West to East). I could only see the outlines of the trees because it was pretty dark, but they were moving so much I could tell that this was one hell of a storm. At about the same time, my ears popped and I could feel a ton of pressure inside my head... I then realized that we were in a tornado. I slammed the door and ran back down to the basement yelling, "GET ON THE FLOOR!!" At the same time, my wife was yelling to me, "GET BACK TO THE BASEMENT!!" Neither one of us could hear the other though, the wind was so loud.
Everyone says that it sounds like a freight train going through their living room.... I disagree. It sounded more like a jet engine, a constant escalating roar. Very loud indeed.
We sat in the basement for a few minutes, and it was over pretty quickly. We went out the back door through the garage to check out the yard, and saw that all the trees were standing and the rain had mostly stopped. Matt, who lives just up the street, wanted to check on his dogs, so he started to leave in Nick's car. I looked up the driveway, but I saw some branches blocking the way. So I went up the driveway to clear them out. As I got to the top of the drive, I saw that two or three huge trees from across the street had fallen down across the street and across the two driveways on our side. We were blocked in. (The picture above was taken after a lot of clearing by city tree crews. Those trees came into the driveway about 10-15 feet and blocked them both pretty securely) Matt lives pretty close, so he just walked over to his place. The dogs were fine, just a little scared. I wanted to check out house, a little further away, so I drove across the lawn to go out the other way down the street. By this time the neighbors were all out in the street looking at the fallen trees, and one of them stopped me. "You can't go that way either, there are trees and power lines down across the street that way too."
So, out came Ali's chainsaw and we got to cutting pine trees. Seems that nobody else on the street had a saw, so we gathered a crowd around us. People pitched in and helped clear out the cut branches, and pretty soon we had a path cleared out of the driveway. It took a little work, and a couple of helpful hints from nice neighbors, but we cleared out one side where we could drive up the neighbor's drive and hit the street beyond the down trees.
I squeezed the car out of the neighbors drive and headed for our house. Matt came along with his flashlight to help, because power was out all over the place. We only drove on one other neighbor's lawn to get home, and managed to get around a lot of fallen trees between Ali's and home. At the top of his street there were two telephone poles snapped in half. It was a strange sight to see, telephone poles snapped half-way up, not at the top or bottom. They broke in the wind and the power lines stayed attached, so the top halves were suspended low over the road. It looked strange, it was too easy to break those normally sturdy, unmoving poles.
On our block, there was no sign of a tornado. You'd hardly know there was a storm. There were a few branches here and there, some pine needles in the street, but overall pretty calm and clean. The power was out, but our power tends to go out if someone at GA Power farts, so that wasn't unusual. I grabbed my flashlights, checked on the cats, and headed back to Ali and Matt's block.
After reporting back to the troops that our place was fine we called all of our friends nearby. We were a little frazzled by this and had no idea if this was wide spread or local or what. No sign of damage on our block was somewhat comforting, but there was so much destruction where we were it felt like anyone could be in the same situation. Everyone we reached said the same thing, "There was what?" Yes, a tornado, hard to believe, but all anyone else saw was thunderstorms. We surprised several people with our calls at 11:00 at night.
Saturday brought some more storms (and still no power) but nothing in town like we had the night before. Some strong hail, some heavy rain, and we were still a little on edge from Friday. We sought shelter at Hannah's house at one point, but it turned out to be nothing.
Sunday, Nick and I rode around checking out the damage to the city and our neighborhood.... those pictures will come next.