160+ Alabama Tornadoes Later – The Experience I’ll be Telling My Grandkids About Someday (But It’s Not Why You Think)


April 27th, 2011: one of the most dangerous, most devastating days ever for the state of Alabama, in terms of tornadoes. 161 tornadoes as of the creation of this article – one just to the northwest of us which has been rated an EF-5, the most devastating of tornadoes possible – with wind speeds of around 200 mph, as wide as a mile in width in some areas with a 100 mile path of destruction…

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NOTE: The following article contains some “Food For Thought” based on my experience and thoughts that ran through my head during this terrible crisis.  I will be expanding on some of these thoughts in future posts as they relate to creating wealth in these turbulent times, albeit a different type of scenario, and a different type of plan…

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April 27, 2011 TornadoesApril 27th, 2011 was a horrible day for Alabama as the death count continues to rise and the damage continues to be surveyed.  Power is still out in the city of Huntsville days after the storms hit – a complete blackout in fact for the majority of the top 100 miles of the state – which isn’t expected to be remedied for 4-5 days at the earliest.  Curfew is in effect for the city of Huntsville, the city in closest proximity to the majority of the tornadoes, with utter destruction and near elimination of some of the surrounding smaller towns.  A horrible atrocity; we are fortunate and blessed to have been spared, virtually unscathed other than the inconvenience of no electricity.

In the aftermath, many people are left shocked, sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated.  Yet now that the storms have passed, the calm after the storms seems to have arrived for most…

It is now 11pm the day after on a Thursday night, a time of day I normally still have many millions of thoughts running through my head, tasks to complete… still very much “on GO.”  It’s a busy world – 24/7 it seems at times – as the internet never shuts down, lights and computers can run through the night, emails stream in around the clock, along with texts, emails, tweets, facebook updates, you name it!  It can be hard to shut off, hard to unwind, and even when we attempt to we still usually turn to some electronic form of entertainment, be it tv/cable/satellite/DVD/film, video games, facebook, twitter, iphone applications, etc…

Yet, on THIS Thursday night, in the same city, in the same house, at the same time of night in the middle of what would normally be a busy business week, there’s an unfamiliar yet very welcoming feel to it all.  There is no hustle and bustle, no distractions, no movement, no sounds, no nothing – just peace and quiet.  Wow!

I’m sitting in my hot (now warm) tub, drinking a cool (no longer cold) beer, looking up at the sky as that’s the only place there’s any light at all – and boy is it bright! So many stars I can’t even make out the big dipper, Orion’s belt or any other constellation, but I did also see several shooting stars!  I don’t think I had seen this many stars, especially at this low elevation, since camping in the mountains at over a mile and a half high near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevadas – and this is from my backyard in the city! …

The incredible contrast definitely makes me take notice and gives me pause.  What a blessing! Several thoughts are running (or rather walking at a comfortable, leisurely, fun pace) through my head.  How truly incredible!

As great as all our technology is – as convenient and fast that electricity and cheap energy has made our lives – there’s definitely something to be said for peace and quiet!  What a once in a lifetime (or at least a very rare event – records couldn’t be found for the last time ALL of Northern Alabama or even Huntsville has been without power all at the same time) to be able to experience such an awesome experience.

Power Pylon Damage

A scene from the new Transformers movie? No, this is the damage caused by an EF-5 tornado on Apr 27, 2011 near Huntsville, AL (The Huntsville Times/Glenn Baeske)

I mean, when was the last time you ever saw your entire city pitch dark as if all the buildings and houses and stores and restarants had not yet been built…?  It feels like a time machine, going back in time a hundred years to experience what life must have been like before electricity and the following technology spread throughout the cities.  A priceless experience as to my knowledge no one has been able to create a time machine at any cost to be able to go back in time to see and feel what it was like a hundred years ago.

Although I’m only 30, I feel like an old timer, imagining the day I could tell my grand kids of what it was like when Huntsville, a city with a metro population approaching half a million people, was completely dark with no electricity, no tv, no internet, no electricity!

With all the headlines in the media, all the problems and obstacles our country and our world is facing today and the many challenges not yet upon us that may be lurking just down the road, this experience made me come to realize that we can survive!

Better yet, we can still thrive! Who would have thought this could ever happen?  Some thousands of square miles of city – a space and rocket city no less – internet-less, tv-less, powerless?

Yes, there is still lots of fear, lots of angst, lots of pain, and lots of frustration.  This experience makes me appreciate the incredible technology that we do have today and how powerful it really is…

Over the years, tornado-sensing and following technology has come a long way.  It’s incredible the information they can provide about an incoming storm, and the technology they have to alert people.  From live streaming tv broadcasts showing the storm’s projected paths to particular communiites and even streets to the minute; to radio broadcasts, air-raid-like blaring sirens triggered by the national weather service by the county based on dangerous approaching storms; to internet alerts, emails, texts, tweets and facebook – the technology is really incredible.

Yet still, the last wave of storms for the day were so strong and plentiful that they eventually managed to not only cripple powerlines and high-voltage steel pylons to knock out the power, but also the radar sensing antenas and sirens so that essentially the entire city was blind.  We were all so accustomed to seeing the images on the screen, knowing when and where the brunt of the storm would hit that when the power went out and even the radio stations didn’t know where the tordnados were, people panicked!

The weather channel’s Jim Cantore got on the phone and began calling stations around the city to let people know where the storms were and when.  Luckily, smart phones like iphones with internet access were able to access facebook and also get the latest updates from the news stations even while the power, tv, internet and phone lines were out.

Incredible how powerful and lifesaving facebook was for so many people. You could feel the fear and anxiousness people had through their comments as everyone came together through facebook messages and comments to communicate centrally where to go, what to do, what was happening, what the authorities were doing, updates on food, water, generators, batteries, gasoline, etc.  What an incredible tool and thank goodness for that.  You can understand now why people even in poor countries who may not even have electricity in their homes yet they may have a smart phone – a virual gateway to the rest of the world, a survival mechanism, and communication tool.

What I’ve Learned From This Experience

Through this experience, I am so grateful and blessed that we have such technology available at our disposal, that even in the presence of such disaster and tragedy, through systemic failure after systemic failure, that still one system remained intact to help keep people in touch and in communication which from reading many of the facebook comments on the news channels pages, I know saved people’s lives!  That is powerful!

And as remarkable and inspiring as this story may be, I am also made aware of our dependence on electricity and gasoline. Without it, and more specifically without it’s normal and expected availability and supply, people don’t know what to do; they are scared, frustrated and angry rather than counting themselves lucky to be spared from the tragedy, lucky to be alive, house intact, just a minor inconvenience in comparison!

This gave me a glimpse into the future, to when it appears there is more and more likelihood of some kind of event triggering a similar result that will leave some or many or even all of us without power or gasoline for some short or extended period of time, and likely not just once, but many different times…

If this were to happen across the country, where it is not possible to ship in food, water, batteries, manpower, medical supplies – what would happen? We are definitely not prepared for such an event to happen once, let alone multiple times for any length of time…

This event is a wake-up call.

No longer can we take our technology and advanced way of life for granted.

No longer can we assume that we can always plug in our computer or cell phone and recharge it’s battery, or pull up to a gas station and be able to fill our tank, or go to the bank if we need to pull out cash to pay for this gas, or food, or water…

We need to start thinking ahead, to start planning ahead.

Are you prepared?   What would you do?  Do you have a contingency plan?

Perhaps it won’t happen, hopefully it won’t.  But if it does, would you rather be prepared so you can not only survive but thrive as well?  Or do you take the chance and hope that everything continues to work perfectly as we have been so lucky to experience for the last several decades?

Is it worth the risk?  What’s the small price to pay to be prepared?

Experiencing such an event myself currently firsthand, let me tell you, it is worth the price to be prepared.  Let’s hope for the best, but plan otherwise, just in case…  And with that, my laptop is about to die.  Gotta get to the car to plug it in.  Enjoy your electricity and flowing gasoline in the meantime…

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