'What a beautiful day,' Don and I commented to each other as we left church today. I decided it would be a perfect day to eat outside at my favorite restaurant over at Southlands. My favorite eatery in this outdoor mall, located about 3 miles from our home, is Paradise Bakery. We picked Danielle up from home and headed on over to the popular area. We ate a yummy lunch while sitting in the sun, listening to the music coming out of the sidewalk speakers and watching the kids play in the nearby fountain playground. It was obvious that we weren't the only ones that thought it was a perfect day to be out and about.
That was around 12:30. But by 1:45 things had changed drastically. Where an hour before there were care-free shoppers strolling down Main Street, there was now a tornado ripping it's way down the same thoroughfare. Yep... a tornado.
The EF1 or EF2 (it hasn't been categorized yet) tornado was on the ground for 30 minutes and traveled a path of 8-10 miles. As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of damage and a lot of scared people. Shoppers and movie goers were ushered into the safest parts of the buildings they were in as they heard the commotion going on outside. But they didn't stay in too long because then there were reports of gas leaks. Everyone was quickly evacuated from the mall area.
There were uprooted trees, twisted metal wrapped around poles, blown out windows, relocated benches and cars, and even a car turned upside down. Across the street there is a Lowe's. The tornado picked up model sheds and swingsets and carried them across the street. Large heating and air conditioning units on the roof were ripped off and rain poured into the store.
Not only did it rain hard, but it hailed hard. In the immediate area of the tornado, the hail was baseball size. Here at my house, the ice balls were slightly smaller - golf ball size. I have never seen hail that large, nor heard the sound of it hitting a car - it's loud. I'm so glad that both my car and I were protected from the pummeling. Needless to say, we have a lot of shredded trees around here.
Where was I during the tornado? Standing in the doorway of my garage in awe and snapping a couple of pictures. Some of you may think I was being stupid by not taking refuge in my basement, but we felt safe as we were pretty sure the tornado was moving away from us. We caught the tail end of the show because we watched it go back up into the clouds. One minute it was there, the next it was completely gone.
I sent in a couple of my pictures to the local news stations, along with many other amateur photographers. There were some amazing photos of the tornado. It makes me wish I would have taken my camera, jumped in my car and chased it. I would have loved to have seen what kind of photos I could have got. Oh well... another day... hopefully.
Here are the shots I did get: