Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I Heard "The Train"

Tornado Warning!

This evening I was in my store with three other employees. No customers as there was severe weather coming in Jackson, TN and people were staying home and safe. At one point I was in the office and the lights flickered so I stepped out to the sales floor to make sure we were still good to go with lights. I checked that flashlights were at the ready. Thankfully the security lights remained on like they are supposed to.

The lights were on and I went back into the office. The warning sirens were sounding, and the rain had started and we were all a bit nervous because the warnings affected our area. Suddenly I started hearing something, a really low-pitched steady hum.

I've heard that a tornado coming always sounds like a train, so over the radio headset I asked "is anyone else hearing a train?" And one associate questioned "a train?" and then said "Oh!". Then we all heard hammering beginning on the roof of the store. It's a steel and aluminum roof so it was extremely loud. Was it hail? What was that?

Then the lights went out -- for good this time. In that short period of time between power outtages two customers had entered the building. Another associate located the customers and we got the flashlights up and running. I gave a flashlight to the customers and to each associate.

The noise on the roof was a lot of loud banging and it was obvious that stuff was blowing across it and into the AC units and whatever else up there. I was growing concerned that my friends car that I am using was being pelted by hail and I was feeling responsible that her car was going to be all dimpled when this was over! (The car was okay! Yay!)

Once we had our flashlights I tried to have everyone move to the back of the store, but by that time the storm was already starting to settle.

One of my associates is a Union University student and learned via his cellphone that two dorms on campus were "leveled". All of a sudden reality started setting in and we were all a bit stunned and somewhat frightened. I also reminded people that rumors start flying at times like these and early reports are not always accurate and are frequently exaggerated and "sensational".

The storm seemed to be over and then the wailing of emergency sirens started. Sure enough, the vehicles were all heading to Union. That was so scary.

I had no power, no phone, and the cellphones sometimes worked, sometimes didn't, but I was unable to contact the people I need to to make the call to close the store. Finally I just decided "go home" and we did.

Katie is a Union University employee and she was contacted to get to campus and bring anyone she could in order to help evacuate campus. So I returned to the area with her to help in any way we could.

The "command center" was set up in the parking lot of the shopping center where my store is. Triage was set up in front of Petco. We helped how we could but there was mass chaos and nobody seemed to know what was going on. We were hearing reports though that there were no major injuries and that all the students eventually made it off campus, however the news is reporting that there are still students trapped somewhere on campus. Here's the link to the local news paper the Jackson Sun where there will be updates and more info about the storms and damage. Go here for photos.

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