This past Saturday started off just like any other Saturday. I had errands to run and had some shopping to do. I knew it was supposed to rain so I put off much needed yard work until Sunday. I have a huge event next month, the 20th Annual Red Cross Ball, so I had planned to spend a large portion of my day looking for a gown. After many unsuccessful stops to local malls, boutique stores, and even chic consignment shops, I ended up at David’s Bridal in N. Raleigh.
I arrived at David’s Bridal around 3 p.m. and immediately found dresses I liked. I tried several of them on and even found ‘The One’. I went to check out and then noticed my phone was ringing and I could hear the notification that I had a text message. Not thinking anything of it, and having a personal policy of not being on the phone when I’m at a register, checking out, etc., I waited to answer and respond. As I was checking out the power starting flickering in the store, but remained on for me to have my transaction completed. My new gown was put inside a garment bag and then I proceeded to leave. As I headed for the door I could now see that it was POURING. It was lightening BAD. It was ominously dark. I ran to my car, garment bag in tow, and then called my husband immediately after I checked my text message that read:
“Tornado In Raleigh!”
He had no idea where I was, he just knew I was out shopping. The first words out of his mouth when he answered was, “Where are you right now?” My answer confirmed to him that I was in the path of the impending tornado heading in my exact location. I told him I was in my car. He said, “Get inside NOW”. This was 3:57 p.m. I ran back in the door without any hesitation as the sky looked darker and darker each second and the wind was picking up fast. I made it back inside the store just as they lost power. The manager locked the doors after I entered and then made the announcement that everyone was to head to the back of the store inside their backroom hallway. People were freaking out. Babies were crying. No one really knew what was going on. I just found out 2 minutes prior. I knew a tornado was heading in my direction but I didn’t know exactly where, and most importantly, when. It was a frozen moment for me. I could hear the wind. I could hear the rain hitting the ceiling. I could tell something was going on, but I suppose I was just waiting for something… anything. Or, nothing. I was just frozen. We remained in this hallway for about 15 minutes. One of the employees came into the hallway saying that the tornado had passed us and we could leave if we chose to; however, they mentioned the “debris field” was still apparent and to be very careful. As I left the store I was extremely cautious. I had no idea what to expect. I think I was still frozen. I wanted to get home, if home was even still there. I had no idea at this point. I didn’t even know there was a tornado risk at all. I guess I was just out shopping in my own little world.
I drove home in the pouring rain very, very slowly. I was about 10 minutes from home and took residential roads home. There was debris everywhere. Trees all over the road. It was a sight. I got home safe & sound and my home was safe & sound. My precious furry kids were safe & sound. The yard was a mess, and my many bags of pine straw, weeds, etc. were blown all over the neighborhood, but everything was OK. I didn’t have power, but many didn’t. At this point, I just decided to finish up my shopping by taking a trip to the grocery store. They DID have power so I figured I’d ride it out. It wasn’t until I got back home and noticed that the power was on that I realized the enormity of the situation.
I saw photos. I watched countless videos. I watched the news. I watched the news all night. I saw the path of the storm and its destruction. I could tell where the tornado came through downtown Raleigh, very close to where my husband was on an EMS shift. I saw the path the tornado took where I was, at David’s Bridal. After reviewing the addresses of the neighborhoods affected, because honestly I’m not too familiar with this area of Raleigh, I realized how close I actually was to the tornado. It skipped around quite a bit, but came within a mile from the store. The tornado was, at times, 1-3 miles wide with its debris field reaching farther than that. The map below shows where I was in relation to the path of the storm.’A’ marks an area that was completely obliterated by the storm and sadly, 3 lives were lost. All children. ‘C’ marks a large family neighborhood where homes were completely lifted off their foundations. I am ‘B’. Apparently the storm took a sharp turn NE missing the store that had become my safe haven. I was lucky. So many were not.
Currently the NC death toll is 22. There are more feared dead. In total, 62 tornadoes were confirmed on Saturday. That is 5x more tornadoes than we see in an entire year. 1,000 homes were severely damaged – 500 were completely destroyed. As of 3 p.m. this afternoon, over 30,000 people were still without power. 300 families are in temporary shelters.
The Red Cross needs our help. Our community needs our help. Now.
I am so thankful for Rich trying to reach me when he did. If he hadn’t called me and sent me that text message, who knows what could of happened. I won’t think of that. Again, I was lucky, but others were not. Some lost everything.
The devastation left behind by this storm is vast. FEMA arrived on Sunday afternoon to access the widespread damage. The Red Cross has been out around the clock providing shelter, clothing, drinks & snacks. They can’t do this alone. They need their neighbors. They need us.
Please DONATE what you can. GIVE what you can. SUPPORT how you can.
Triangle American Red Cross: Tornado Relief – How To Get Help & How To Give Help