The Tennessee Tornado

the trees are goneOn Tuesday, February 5, 2008, around 9:30 at night, the TV news reported a tornado was heading right at us. The lights went out, the Tornado Siren in Fairview sounded, and we ran to our basement.

We knew the storms were going to be serious and had already filled all the water containers, gotten out the flashlights (including the wind up variety) and the emergency candles. We’d put our laptops in bags, as they held lots of important information, gotten our id’s and other portable valuables, and our cameras, keys, cell phones and food and taken all that to the basement. We brought our dogs in.

And then we heard what sounded like 100 freight trains. Silence. Then the freight trains again.

A few minutes later, it was over. We went back upstairs, and from inside the house there seemed to be no problems. David went out and found a tree had fallen- luckily away from the house. As it was pitch black, raining and very windy, it was hard to see much of anything, but we realized a tornado had passed by- close by. The cell phones started ringing, and we found that our neighbors had lost their houses. David went out to look for our horses, as they were in the top pasture- David found them all huddled at the gate to the barn pasture. He had to move some branches, and then opened the gate, letting the horses in.

Our friend, Amy, and her two children came over. And none too soon as another tornado producing storm showed up. We hit the basement again. By now it’s 12:30 am on Wednesday. The children were exhausted and running on fumes… Townsend and Bree fell asleep on the basement floor, in sleeping bags. Amy took Cydney upstairs to Meredith’s bed, David stretched out on the sofa and Meredith & I went up to David’s & my bed. We tried to sleep. I had a wind up radio that I kept listening, thank goodness, because at 2 am another storm came through. Meredith & I were up like a flash, Mere waking Amy, and I attempted to wake David. Back down to the basement while the wind whipped and the lightning flashed. Suddenly the hail started hitting the roof, sounding like baseballs being thrown against glass. The wind was blowing so hard, I was afraid the basement doors were going to blow open. By 2:45 it was over. Amy took Cydney back upstairs, Meredith had fallen asleep on the basement floor with the other two, so I crawled back into my bed… alone (David was back on the sofa)… and fell into a restless sleep.

The phone started ringing again around 6:30 am. Friends checking in, making sure we were ok- we started calling people too- unfortunately, not all were OK- there were many homes lost, including two of my best friends’ homes, and barns. We, luckily, only had tree damage- about 100 trees on 10 acres gone. A new pasture? We also had some fences down. Minor stuff in comparison to the damage around us. The tornado came within a football field of us.

As of that afternoon, we had the generator going, and I sent the following update to some horse rescue friends:

still in shock, and generator not working well, so this will be quick-
we’re ok. critters are ok- it came really really close- I’ve got pix,
lots of neighbors without homes right now, including two of my best
friends. Got 4 of Scotties horses here (2 perch mares and 2 half
draft mares), my boys are loving it! back end of my property is
really damaged, about 10 acres of woods gone (approx 100 large old
trees). Fences down, but this stuff is minor. I’m still not sure of
the exact measurements, but we live on a 70 acre farm, home is in teh
middle of the farm, and we’re surrounded by farms and small acreage
tracts (5 acre min) on 3 sides.
I’ve been in tears this afternoon for all my friends and neighbors.
And it wasn’t just trailers (altho quite a few trailers got hit), but
brick homes, log homes, big homes, little homes, well built homes,
badly built homes- this tornado was not picky. Quite a few homes just
gone. NOthing left but the foundation.

http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=DN&Date=20080206&Category=NEWS0\
1&ArtNo=802060805&Ref=PH

(if that doesn’t work, go to tennessean.com, I think it’s on the front
page).

The pics of Fairview are within a half mile of my home. some closer.
The ones of Randy Hughes’ place, well that’s one of my best friends-
their horse, Quest, was hurt pretty badly (he’s the horse that has
carried Randy & Jackie’s youngest daughter to all the Rodeo Queen
contests- Kelsy just ended her term as Miss Teen TN Rodeo Queen).
Pinewood Elementary is where the kids go… or went… who knows. it’s
3 miles from the house by car, about a mile and a half as a crow flies.

I’ve got photos- I’ll get them uploaded when I can, but thought you’d
want to see what my poor neighbors have gone thru. Tomorrow is
another day, we’re going to hitch the trailer again and go help where
we can- LOTS of loose livestock. My vet has been calling me and
telling me where I need to go…

Colorado is looking pretty good.

Global climate change has physically MOVED tornado alley about 500
miles east. Damned glad I have a good strong basement. I hope none
of us ever have to go thru this again…

By Wednesday night, we finally had electricity- and we got showers! My email to the horse group:

I’m sitting here exhausted to the bone, with electricity on (woo hoo),
listening to one of the local news channels trying to raise money for
the tornado victims. I’m slowly uploading pictures to my picasa site
(I’ll send the info later), some of which were taken as it got dark,
so they really didn’t come out too well. I’ll redo them tomorrow.

Your outpouring of concern and wanting to help has been incredible.
What really is amazing is that I’ve had more concern from all of you
than I have had from my own family – but better than that, you all
UNDERSTAND what is going on- You all are so compassionate and
empathetic, and that has really been such a big help.

David & I have cancelled everything we had planned for tomorrow- the
kids’ don’t have school tomorrow either (power is still out, the
school is on a well, and there are still so many trees down the school
bus can’t run). We’re going to get out early and start helping our
friends and neighbors…

This is what is going on:

Scottie, who lives 4 miles due west of us and who’s home and barn was
demolished, is receiving PODS tomorrow. Her insurance has arranged
for people to come and pack up her house and move her out. They have
also arranged for any furniture that obtained damage to be fixed
and/or restored. Scottie has lots of antiques (family pieces). A
friend of hers has lent her a pick up truck (Scottie’s truck was late
80’s model Ford F250- not worth much in terms of insurance). Our
friend, Peppy (who’s husband is the vet) has offered for Scottie to
move over to her farm- Peppy’s currently not living there as her
children go to school in town and they couldn’t take the back and
forth traveling. So, she has a friend check her horses daily (and
feed them), and she & her family have moved into a rental house they
own that was empty. She’s also leased a barn closer to were she
lives, with a few friends, so that their kids can ride daily. So her
farm home is empty (they go out on weekends and it’s where my friends
& I ride from for our long long rides) and we’re trying to talk
Scottie into moving there until she either rebuilds or figures out
what to do –
In the meantime, I’m worried about Scottie, as she insisted on
spending the night at her house tonight to keep the looters out. It’s
gotten quite cold (it was a bitter 42 – very damp with a stiff wind-
and is dropping down into the low 30’s tonight)- she claims to have a
-30 degree sleeping bag. Stubborn lady!
Tomorrow, I’m going to go over to her place and load up some of her
hay. Her hay has gotten wet, so she needs to use it asap, and since I
have 4 of her horses, I’m going to feed it to them and mine, until
it’s gone, then go back to LLisa’s wonderful hay. You’ll see from the
photos I’ve downloaded, there are barns full of hay, but no roof!
David is heading out with the chainsaw, going to people’s houses to
help out more- we’ve also got the 4wheeler and tractor ready for
anyone. I’ll check back in with my vet and see if there is anyone
else that needs to have their horses temporarily boarded.

Now I’m going to go to bed. I am worried about my friends, my
neighbors- I may try to take food and water around to some of the
people who are trying to dig out.

thank you all so very much for everything. Wish you were all here to
help out- but don’t worry, this isn’t going to be cleaned up in a few
days, so we’ll just expect you all to show up soon 🙂

Thursday, I posted to the group the following, entitled, The Aftermath, Day 2:

It’s really beginning to hit people hard- what has happened. My
friends and neighbors, who yesterday were on autopilot and in shock,
are now starting to break down. Tears are flowing, hands are shaking,
the stress of trying to cope and the emotional meltdown caused by lack
of sleep are starting to appear.

It’s also amazing how this community bands together. By the time I
got to Scottie’s today, she’d already had people helping her-
including an eye doctor who was just driving by and got out of his car
to help load hay.

We got all the hay out of what was left of her stalls- and also got
all the salvegable bales out of the fields- Some of the latter are a
bit wet, but I’ve got them set aside so they might dry out- some of
the partially busted bales I brought back too, and just pushed them
out on the horses. Scottie’s horses are settling in, although this
morning as I was feeding, they suddenly stood rock still, ears
forwards, and then they slowly started sliding in until they were all
snuggled up tight- Yup… they had never seen pigs before! It was
funny, especially as they didn’t freak out, just became a mass of
horse. It also turns out the goats had never seen a turkey before, as
they both hid behind me, peaking out around my legs. I wish I’d had a
camera.

We got Scottie’s barn cleaned out- Peppy took 3 trailer loads home, I
brought a flat bed full of hay back here, Camille is going to bring a
truck load of feeds and stuff. This weekend, after the insurance
agent has gone back thru the barn and pastures, I’m going to pick up
what is left of any coral panels- this will allow me to paddock off
more land, and get her horses split up. One of the mares is extremely
alpha and really doesn’t like an elderly mare- keeps running her off
the hay- even when I spread it out.

The moving company is packing up Scottie’s house. Furniture and
belongings that are in good shape are put in storage after being
packed. A furniture restorer has been called to clean and restore the
antiques that have water and debris damage. Some art work that was
damaged is going to be seen by a specialist (the restorer told Scottie
she needed to get the art work in the freezer immediately as that
would prevent the water from doing any more damage?!?) Scottie is an
emotional mess- but I’m glad to see her crying. She needs to let it
out. She’s decided to stay with friends tonight, a good thing as she
didn’t get any sleep last night in her frigid broken home. She’ll
also get a shower and some hot food. My friend Ruth (who’s in my food
coop, as is Scottie) has been bringing her hot meals- homemade soups,
stews, and tea… I brought peanutbutter & jelly sandwhiches, bananas
and ginger snaps… went home with no food- I think it’s because the
pb&j’s are easier to eat while working…

I couldn’t get to the Hughe’s today- the sherriff has the road
closed- I’m going to go down there tomorrow with a horse trailer as
Randy thinks his horse & ponies should come here. He does now have a
tarp on his house, and says his daughter’s trailer should be fixed up
pretty soon.

Other neighbors are now tarped too- we’ve been lucky as the weather
has been holding- while it was grey and very windy yesterday, it was
gorgeous today (I’m sunburned). It’s going to continue to be nice
until maybe Weds night of next week when there is a slight chance of
SNOW!

David spent the day working on our place- with the chain saw and
tractor- He was joined by Buddy, the farmer who has his cattle on our
place and our neighbor’s place. Our neighbor’s fencing is gone- under
all those trees in my photos- so Buddy has rigged up a new fence along
the property line, and has put his cattle on my property for the time
being. I had put in fencing and cross fencing, creating 3 pastures,
all with gates and water lines- so the cattle are going to be rotated.
Buddy wants to timber the trees that fell- I’ve called the insurance
to find out what to do and it was suggested I get a certified arborist
out to estimate what was lost. The end result will be a 4th pasture,
and we’ll run a water line out there too- I am looking for someone to
help me with some fencing- and I think the contractor we’ve been using
might help- he came out and helped unload all the hay today- he’s been
going around to all the people in the area, chainsaw in hand, just
helping out where he can.

Llisa, thanks for offering Ed, but I’m not sure what he could do- The
community has really pitched in- most everyone here has family and
friends to stay with -in fact, the Red Cross is not setting up a
shelter as the people who’ve lost homes have moved in with family and
friends. Scottie, who’s a New England transplant like me (ok, for all
you purists out there, I’m a PA transplant, not a New Englander,
yeeesh! giggle), has had more offers of places to stay- we’ve offered
her our guest room (with windows overlooking her horses)- I think
she’s going to take Peppy up on her offer to stay at Peppy’s farm
indefinetly. I’ll bring her mares to be with her there-

School starts back tomorrow- I really hope there is going to be
counseling for the kids- There are only 105 kids in the school, and a
few no longer have homes. Almost all the kids have been effected in
some way-

Thank you all for offering help, there are a few people without
insurance- I can find out who they are and see what we as a group can
do for them… There’s been quite a lot of money raised in the Middle
TN area, the Red Cross is doing quite a lot too – And our Governor
just requested Federal Aid, declaring the tornado damage throughout TN
a disaster area. The kids’ school is setting up as a clearing house,
by identifying those in need and matching them to help. I’m going to
register tomorrow for any kind of help I can offer.

Today, Friday, I posted this, under the heading, Tornado Aftermath, Day 3:

Hi Y’all-

Wadda day! I now have 3 more equines here- another 2 yr old filly
(qh), an unknown age qh gelding, and an aged pony mare. It was
interesting bringing them here, as they came from the Hughes farm-
The tornado had carried the pony mare about 150 feet and OVER a 5 foot
fence into another pasture. But she’s doing well- altho she’s got
cushings and needs a hoof trim. The other two are unharmed, but
shaken up. And they’d never seen potbellied pigs, goats or HORSE
EATING TURKEYs before! It’s the turkey that really has them on edge,
LOL. In fact, every time the turkey puffs up and struts his stuff,
Billie Holidoe jumps a foot high!

Most of the trees on the roads are gone- I got some pix of the clean
up and will post them on the picasa site later -David just took the
camera to go see what Fernvale looks like. Fernvale is an historic
Valley about 5 miles east of us (we jokingly call ourselves Fernvale
Heights, or West Fernvale). It was originally a turn of the last
century restort area complete with natural mineral springs. The old
Fernvale Inn & resort burned in the 19teens I think, and was
“forgotten” for a while- because of that, it has grown very little,
has lovely views and is a favorite of bicyclists – It had a historic
church from pre-civil war area that exploded during the tornado (from
the increased pressure during the tornado). They still don’t have
electricity out there, so we’ve been sharing our showers with our
friends from there.

I’ve been on the phone with the local news. I contacted them after
hearing that Williamson County wasn’t one of the counties to receive
federal aid. Bush has been touring the state. Well, it seems that
our county hasn’t applied for disaster aid. The news has taken this
and is running with it. David just called and the news is up on
Coldwater road right now- the web site is: wsmv.com and the first
local news is on right now. I’m assuming this story will appear in an
hour… Hopefully this will get the people here the help they deserve.

In the meantime, the school is acting as a clearing house for aid-
we’re trying to figure out who has been effected and to what extent,
and then also coordinate outside aid. We’re also setting up a
Fairview Tornado relief fund, and once it’s up and running I’ll let
you know about it. At this point, I know of 3 people who were without
insurance and who lost everything. Unfortunately, the real estate
taxes have gone up so much around here many old timers and very poor
people can’t afford to pay both the taxes and insurance. My friends,
the Hughes, are being (for lack of a better term) dicked over by their
insurance. The insurance is refusing to cover the horse trailer
(they’d been paying insurance on it), won’t cover the tractors,
fencing, and don’t want to give them much of anything for their brick
house that was moved off it’s foundation and suffered massive water
damage after the roof was ripped off it by the tornado. GRRRRR…
They also aren’t covering any of the tack lost (Kelsey was the TN
Rodeo Queen and her show saddle was demolished- can’t even save the
silver conchos)- She can’t find any of her headstalls, halters,
blankets or anything. She’d worked at Farmer’s Coop last summer and
used her employee discount to purchase new show items. GRRRRR!

If anyone has any QH sized rope (cowboy)halters she could use them.
It’s not an emergency as 2 of her horses are here, the other is at her
uncle’s where she can tend his wounds (Think Alcina’s old man’s
wounds- except an artery wasn’t cut, by the grace of God!). Anyway,
Kelsey could use 5 QH sized halters and leads.

Wormer is also on the list of things needed. I’m going to contact
Country Supply and see if they might donate a bunch of Zimecterin
Gold. I’m also going to contact Blue Ridge Botanicals and see if they
can donate some acidolpholus and horse cookies.

That’s about all I can think of right now- I’m dog dead tired and
dirty- ahhhh… calgon take me away!

Cheers and Thank you everyone for sendign out letters – I am
hoping/praying it will help.

I will continue to post about the tornado clean up here. About the brave residents of Fairview TN. About the amazing community we live in.
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