Archived Story

A Christmas miracle

Published 11:34am Thursday, December 27, 2012

“Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

That old adage was my motto on Christmas Day in regards to the weather.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had kept a wary eye on the skies beginning Christmas morning and continuing late into the night.

My family spent Christmas Eve with me so we could continue our usual tradition of Christmas breakfast and opening presents from “Santa” on Christmas morning. But they scurried back to Prattville early in the afternoon in order to beat the oncoming storms.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon with my grandmother, who cooked me a delicious Christmas lunch. But even as I enjoyed the turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and dressing, I remained vigilant of changing weather conditions.

Historically, Alabama hasn’t had any tornadoes on Christmas Day. According to the National Weather Service, Alabama has had 13 tornadoes on Christmas Eve and 4 tornadoes Dec. 26 between 1950 and 2012, so the odds were with us to be spared.

But in the back of my mind, I could only think of two dates: April 27, 2011 and March 2, 2012.

Though I wasn’t employed by Tallapoosa Publishers yet when the April 27, 2011 tornadoes struck, any passersby driving along Alabama Highway 63 near Children’s Harbor can see to this day the massive destruction done to the area from just one of the multiple tornadoes that swept through the state.

I saw hundreds of our staff’s photos showing the devastation – families sorting through the rubble where their homes once stood or mourning loved ones who had lost their lives.

And more recently, I helped to cover the March 2 tornado that swept through Wind Creek State Park, Jackson’s Gap and Eagle Creek, claiming one life in the Eagle Creek area. In my career as a journalist, I have never had to cover anything more heart-wrenching and hoped I would never have to again.

So as Christmas Day turned to night and the storms loomed closer to Tallapoosa County, I felt a terrible weight on my heart.

I hoped with every fiber of my being for the storms to miss our area, despite one tornado originating in Lowndes County I was sure was making a beeline for us.

I checked back and forth between the Weather Channel and local stations for several hours, updating The Outlook’s Twitter and Facebook accounts when needed. I wanted to make sure that if the storms were heading our way that I did my best to ensure people were prepared.

I braced myself as the storm swept into neighboring Elmore County. I worried about the employees at our sister papers in the area and their families.

The impending storms reminded me what is actually important in my life. I thought of what I’d try to save from my own home in any type of disaster – not my laptop or iPad, but my family photo albums and heirlooms that can never be replaced.

Thinking of the loss so many in our state have experienced in the past two years, of all the intangible things that will never quite be the same, made an incredible impact on me.

For some, no Christmas will ever be the same.

Yet, almost by divine intervention, neither Elmore County nor Tallapoosa County showed any real damage from the severe weather except for a handful of downed trees.

By 9:45 p.m. the tornado warning was lifted for Elmore County – and was not carried over or extended into Tallapoosa County.

That, folks, is what I’d call a Christmas miracle.

A little after 10 p.m., my chimney began leaking from all the rain. I hurriedly placed bowls in my fireplace to catch the drips. But as the rain washed over my home, relief washed over me.

We weren’t completely out of the woods at that point, but at least none of my friends, neighbors or fellow Tallapoosa Countians would have to face the loss of their homes or family because of a tornado on what is normally such a warm, loving day filled with holiday cheer.

And to whatever powers that be spared us from the storm, I couldn’t be more thankful.

I hope all of you had a blessed and happy Christmas season, and I, for one, am very grateful that our biggest worries Dec. 26 were leaky chimneys, a few downed tree limbs, a trash can full of wrapping paper and a fridge full of Christmas leftovers.

Spears is general manager and managing editor for The Record.

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