Okay. I have a series of visuals for you. This is one of the aerial shots my mother emailed to me, taken over the Birmingham/Jefferson County area on 4/28. Keep in mind: this isn't even the worst of the destruction, by far--this isn't Tuscaloosa, which was half wiped off the map with $100 million worth of damage.
Okay, now imagine 178 of those, all over the South. Everywhere you see red on this map, imagine that scarred-up swath of nothing.
shesnotallthere has been posting updates on utilities and road openings from the Tuscaloosa area over the last several days. Yesterday, she wrote,
Seven days ago, a large tornado wiped out half of my hometown.
I have traveled down University Boulevard in Alberta nearly every day for over 30 years. When I drove down that street the day after the tornado, I got about halfway down and had to stop...I couldn't tell where I was. On a street I know THAT well. That is how total the destruction is. There are no landmarks left, nothing familiar. Just piles of rubble that used to be stores and homes that were built before I was born.
I cannot describe to you the feeling that overcame me then. To be in your own home and yet recognize NOTHING around you...it was terrifying and heart-breaking and it was one of those moments that seems like it *just shouldn't be possible*.
And the PEOPLE. People who lived there were just wandering the streets. Wandering and crying, mostly. Just walking from one pile of rubble to the next and telling each other, "My house was RIGHT HERE yesterday."
There are forty people dead. Forty people who were here, RIGHT HERE, last Wednesday. Now they're gone. I can only imagine how many people are having to relearn how to navigate the world in their absence.
@spann: For those not understanding our suffering, this video tells it all RT @heychandler: http://bit.ly/kgXUpE #WeAreAlabama
Pleasant Grove is a suburb of Birmingham, mind you. This is what my part of town dodged.
For a few days there, my mother was coming home with stories from a coworker who lives in Moody. She is really, really insistent that I tell y'all about this, but you can skip to the next paragraph if you want. The first two stories are kind of shocking but end well; the third one's sad. 1) Two black labs were picked up by the tornado and flung up into the (dead) power lines, where they got stuck, apparently just... hanging there. But other than, you know, that, the dogs were fine, though neighbors had to climb up and cut them down from the tangle of wires. 2) A husband and wife ran upstairs to their children's room, to grab their two young boys. The wife was able to grab the younger boy on the bottom bunk; the husband got the older boy, about six or seven years old, I think, but the tornado tore the roof off and sucked the boy away, right out of his hands. Afterwards, they found the little boy, alive, a hundred yards away. 3) I keep trying to write this one out, and I'm having a hard time making myself do it. One of the older neighbors sat up all night with a woman's body, wrapped up, on the porch, because rescue teams had enough body bags but not enough transport to take them all back with them. And the neighbor said, "I don't want the strays to get her." So he kept a vigil over it, on the porch, all night.
I don't really know how to segue from that.
@lillie_80: A FB page is trying to reunite mementos of storm victims with their owners http://bit.ly/iRgYVS (some pics were blown more than 100 miles)
@newmediajim: Man searching through the rubble of his restaurant here in Tuscaloosa. He cheered when he found a bottle of vodka. :) http://yfrog.com/h31niccj
@griner: Photo: Part of the fleet of utility trucks working w/ @alabamapower to restore service. http://plixi.com/p/98334680
@jsandford: In 6 days, @Alabamapower has restored power to a population slightly greater than size of the entire city of Miami.
quizzicalsphinx: "NO WORRIES, Y'ALL. CHARLIE SHEEN IS COMING TO SAVE US."
With torpedo[e]s, no less.
@marcusgilmer: Wait.... WTF? RT @finebaum: Charlie Sheen visits Tuscaloosa's recovery efforts after tornado. http://www.twitpic.com/4sd5go
@cleolinda: Also, I heard that Charlie Sheen is organizing a celebrity baseball game to benefit Tuscaloosa. I am PRETTY sure I did not hallucinate this.
@cleolinda: There's so little news coverage of the multi-state tornado devastation... maybe an attention-monger is exactly what we need right now.
@cleolinda: 450 people are still missing in Tuscaloosa. You monger us up some attention, sir. You monger the shit out of it.
As of this writing, there are now only 13 missing in Tuscaloosa; everyone else has been accounted for, better or worse.
@moirarogersbree: One easy thing to do from a distance is donate to the AL Food Bank: http://bit.ly/m9JNmb
You can also still text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.
@rosannecash: This is so easy- Amazon has a 'needs' list for tornado victims; you can buy and they will ship: http://amzn.to/mj6lLI
@SmartBitches: Want to send new bras and underwear down South? Email me for shipping address. Deets: http://is.gd/4Hd4si
@SmartBitches: I have messages about cases of mini shampoo, underwear, coloring books and other needed supplies heading south. SO AWESOME. #wearealabama
I've helped a little with organizing on YA Highway's Help Write Now auction blog; proceeds will benefit all affected areas, not just Alabama. I was looking into getting a fandom auction community set up, but helpthesouth got going before we could, so you can pitch in over there if you would like. Both YA Highway and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have been completely awesome in terms of jumping in and trying to get things done, as well as all the writers, editors and agents of all genres who have donated auction items. (So far I've seen critiques, Nooks loaded with e-books, signed books, custom jewelry and at least one knitted pig.) Please let me know if you'd like to donate items--the form is here. And thank you for everything. It means a lot.