Tuesday, April 12, 2011


My eyes have been opened at how quickly your life can change.  My mother-in-law’s house was hit by a tornado Saturday night.  We received a call from Jeff’s sister around 8:30 Saturday night that this had happened.  Our first instinct was to jump in the car and start driving there (she lives 4 hours away).  However, storms were still passing through the state and we didn’t want to risk the possibility of running into another tornado while we were out on the roads.  Jeff’s aunt and uncle live about 20 miles away from her and they were able to pick her up and take her to their house.  Since we knew she was safe, we decided it would be best to wait and get up early Sunday morning and head that way.  We ran out and purchased anything we could think of that we would need – totes, boxes, garbage bags, water, food, batteries.  Jeff even purchased a chain saw.  It was close to midnight when we finally went to bed, even though it took a long time for either one of us to fall asleep.  We got up at 3:30, packed up the car, and started driving.

When we go there this is what the house looked like:

We didn't know where to even start.  We wanted to start packing up her things, however the smell of natural gas in the air was so strong that we didn't think it was very safe to be inside.  So, we started dragging tree branches and limbs out to the curb.  There was no way to get access to her house from the front, but we were able pull vehicles into the back yard and up to the back of the house.  After about an hour, once the gas smell wasn't so strong, we went back in the house and started packing up every single thing inside.  I was so amazed at how many people came to help.  Friends and family from up to 60 miles away came to help.  I think we had over 30 people there jumping in to help without hesitation.  By late Sunday afternoon the house was completely empty and most of the yard was cleared.  Here is what it looked like Monday:

The power of a tornado is absolutely amazing.  The back door was shut, and locked, but the tornado was still able to pry it open:

The entire house was scattered with corn kernels from nearby grain bins:

We are all thankful that Jeff's mom is alive and with us today.  That is the most important thing.  Jeff's dad passed away 7 years ago, which makes this all the more difficult.  I can't imagine what his mom is going through right now.  I feel like losing your spouse is about the worst thing a person could go through.  So for her to make it through that, and then lose her home years later has to be emotionally draining.  She has so many friends and family that care about her though.  She initially planned on staying with a friend who lived in town (whose house wasn't damaged).  However we all thought it would be better if she could find her own place to rent for awhile, until we get the next steps figured out.  Jeff's sister and her husband arrived early Monday morning and we spent yesterday looking for a place.  Unfortunately, Small Town Iowa doesn't have much to offer as far as apartments, condos, rental houses go (especially after half the town is destroyed).  At the end of the day yesterday some ladies from her church stopped by and told her the church owns a furnished house for people to stay in whenever needed.  It just so happens that nobody is currently staying there and they offered it to her.  What a blessing that was!  Jeff and I had to leave last night so that we could get back to work today.  His sister and her husband are staying through tomorrow to help get her settled in this house. 

Where do we go from here?  Good question.  A boy who was interviewed on the news put it perfectly:  "Now what?"

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