Just after 1:00 am on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, my husband and I were awoken by the sound of tornado sirens, once they stopped, the wind and rain started. We were unaware before going to bed that there were even storms on the horizon. Although I was disoriented, we grabbed Boots and went into the basement. We had a small radio and our computer to learn more of what was happening. A line of severe storms was crossing the area. The specific area of concern for a tornado was north of us (about 7-10 miles) and we were not in immediate danger, but we stayed downstairs as the lights flickered, and we talked about the weather with our neighbors. The radio announcer stated that the storm was headed to Two Creeks and the nuclear power plant. Even though the warning ended at 1:30, we stayed in the basement talking until the next line of storms went through. I had a hard time falling back to sleep once we did return to our apartment, and didn’t actually fall asleep until after 3:45 am.
Once we woke up, we started to hear about the damage. We met with some friends for lunch and spent the afternoon helping to clean up the debris from their yard. Luckily, they did not have any major damage, some branches down, a few broken trees, boats that had been tossed around. We learned that the power plant was safe, but they had recorded winds of 108 miles per hour! Others were not so lucky. A local landmark the Maribel Caves Hotel, has been a skeleton of rock for years after a fire destroyed the interior in 1985, but has withstood many storms. Sadly, the hotel was taken from ruins to rubble in a manner of seconds.
There were 5 confirmed tornadoes in Wisconsin that morning. Most were EF1, including the one that damaged the hotel and the surrounding area.
The Saturday after the storm we saw the hotel, and decided to drive around and see what else had happened. We saw a home next to the hotel that was damaged, many hundreds of trees that were twisted and torn from the ground or splintered into many pieces, barns that were damaged, birds that were killed.
Recognition of one of the farms as the home of someone I had met just days before – in fact the afternoon after the storm – caused us to pause. Andy and I stopped to see if they needed anything. We then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in their company hauling branches and barn boards, lengths of aluminum roofing, pieces of wood and shingles from the house trying to clear the soybean field and the yard.
As we got to know the family a little more, the care that they showed to each other in such a stressful time was a blessing. Was it perfect? No, nothing is. The family was strong and held together though. The barn does not even belong to them, but they are responsible for cleaning it up. The following day, the kids would be going row by row through the soybean and corn fields looking for debris so that the combine would not be damaged when the farmer came to harvest his crops. We talked about how blessed everyone was to be alive. One of the daughters recited how during one flash of lightening she saw the barn was essentially gone. The mom recounted how she usually stays up late and puts the dog out around 1:00 am and how happy she was that she had gone to bed earlier than usual that night. Their house had minimal damage to the roof, they remained safe and sheltered. After sharing a prayer and a meal, we went home that evening, thankful that we were able to help in just a small way.
The entire event has had me reflecting on the shelter that God provides when we are going through life. He keeps us safe. He strengthens us through trials. He provides help and relief when we need it. Although it is easy to dismiss all of the small miracles that happen in life, when the big things happen, it is harder to do so. Why was one home spared and another not? I don’t know, but I trust that in everything that happens, there is a silver lining, a glimpse of hope and love that keeps us going. I don’t believe that God saves one person and lets another be injured or die on a whim or because one is “better” than the other. I do believe that God allows situations to occur that causes us to choose good versus evil, right versus wrong, love versus hate. Sometimes, the shelter that God provides is the friendship that we have with one another in times of joy and in sorrow.
Today, I pray that each and every one of you finds shelter in God and in those around you. That you choose good, right, and love when the situation arrives. Bless you today and stay safe in this great storm that we call life.