As we left for a day in Little Rock, my mind did its usual salute to the house, “Good-bye house. I will miss you if you are gone when I return.” That annoying phobia has haunted me all my married life without rhyme nor reason.
At least not until later that day when my phone began dinging with messages all asking, “Are you okay? Is your house okay?”
“I wonder what’s going on,” I said to my husband as I called our neighbor, Cari. “What happened? We are in Little Rock today.”
“A tornado came through. We have trees down in our yard, across the street and around the neighborhood. The patio roof is gone off the neighbor’s patio. Your house does not have any damage,” she said.
“You can’t drive down the street. It’s closed with fallen trees.” I made a mental note that we might need to take a detour to get home.
“This after all the trees you had cut down this month,” I said, remembering the days men worked to carefully remove towering pine trees.
“That was good for where they were and might have fallen,” she said.
I reported our status to everyone who had checked on us.
We ended Wednesday returning home after sunset. Evidently many folks with chainsaws and strong muscles cleared the roads and streets within hours of the F1 tornado. Our head lights spotted only tree litter on the road. Emergency vehicles with blinking lights were the only lights in some areas.
Thursday’s sunshine highlighted our street’s numerous downed trees or trunks shorn of their top branches.
After breakfast, I walked out to get a closer look and met our neighbor, Mark.
“It sounded like lightning hit down at the corner. I looked out the window and saw the trees across the street rocking back and forth and falling. I yelled ‘Gay, tornado.’ She said, ‘we better get in the closet’ and then it was over,” he said.
Over but so many stories followed. I read many on Facebook. Moms and dads of students at Parkers Chapel fearfully waited for news.
The tornado hit shortly after lunch. The cloud of destruction downed trees on the street behind the school. The small trailer park beside the school saw trailers split in half by falling trees but nothing happened at the school.
Facebook posts praised the teachers’ actions and reactions. The school received notice of the impending storm and efficiently moved students to the Safe Rooms. There the teachers started activities to distract the students.
The response after the storm was amazing. All day and into the night the whine and buzz of chainsaws reduced branches, limbs and tree trunks to movable sizes. Volunteers with chainsaws showed up asking,“Can I help clear the trees?”
Our street closed to allow the utility repair trucks and tree removal crews the room to operate. Backhoes, dump trucks and vehicles with big scoops and grabbers worked all day. Quickly and volunteers and paid work crews cleared away ruined trees and repaired broken utilities.
Most volunteers arrived like Dicky, a friend with a trailer of chainsaws and other equipment. He looked for someplace to help. Mark pointed out elderly Ida’s hidden backyard filled with “downed pine trees and limbs that missed outbuildings by inches.” Dicky worked many hours cutting and hauling pine limbs to the curb for the county to haul away.
Large tarps now cover damaged roofs to await insurance assessors and professional roofers. Tree roots still point skyward until special machines can come to reduce them. Those tasks will take longer.
By Saturday a semblance of normality returned. Folks could step back and praise the quick work of so many. With a few exceptions we all could continue to enjoy our intact houses.