Tornado survivorsPublished 12:32pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012
As anniversary approaches, victims share tales of devastating April 27, 2011 tornado
The sanctuary of Lake Martin Baptist Church was a still as it was full of people Sunday as tornado survivor Donna Padgett took the pulpit to share her story.
Padgett fought off tears as she traced back to April 27, 2011, when her life was “turned upside down.”
Padgett rode out the storm from a walk-in closet inside her home.
“What I remember most about being in our walk-in closet was the pressure – it was so bad, we thought our heads were going to explode,” Padgett said. “I prayed, and God gave me a sense of peace.”
Padgett said she never felt like she was going to die.
“The closet was the only room in the house with the four walls still standing – that is the power of God’s grace,” Padgett said. “For days after the tornado, people came and saw the close and would say things like ‘y’all are so lucky.’ But in my opinion, there was no luck in any of this – God protected us just like He promises He will.”
Padgett was one of many who shared their testimony at the remembrance service for those affected by the April 27, 2011 tornado. Glenda Eubanks, Mark Meadows, Wanda Martin and Carrol Owens also shared their stories from the April storm, while Ed Sellers spoke on his experience during the March 2, 2012 tornado.
The service, titled “A Time to Remember,” also included a religious message from Mel Johnson, Alabama State Board of Missions Disaster Relief Strategist. Johnson spoke of how Alabamians came together after the storm.
“Even if you were not personally touched by this storm, you probably know someone or have a family member who was impacted,” Johnson said. “All of Alabama stood at attention, and in the hours following the disaster, we responded.”
Josh Johnson, meteorologist with WSFA, gave a presentation about the storm. Johnson pointed out that while the forecast for the event was accurate, some 250 people still died during the event.
“We have got to figure out why (250 people died), so that doesn’t happen next time,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that early morning thunderstorms left a large amount of people without power in the hours leading up to the storm.
“A lot of ways that people get storm warnings were knocked out,” Johnson said.
Johnson also feared that a vast number of those who received warnings simply ignored them. Reliance on weather sirens also played a part, Johnson said.
“Sirens are designed for people outdoors, peoples outside, on the golf course or at the ball park,” Johnson said. “They are not designed to wake you up in the middle of the night. They never were meant for that.”
A lack of sufficient shelter options could have also been responsible for the high death toll, Johnson said.
“These storms were so powerful, you almost had to be underground,” Johnson said. “There were people on Lake Martin that lost their lives in well-built homes. They did everything they were supposed to do. They heard the warning and they acted.”
Barry Casper, director of missions for the Tallapoosa Baptist Association, closed the ceremony in prayer and discussed upcoming training programs for the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Program.
For more information about disaster relief training offered by this group, visit http://training.sbdr.org/.