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Former Union City resident weathers storm in shelter

Former Union City resident weathers storm in shelter

By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
After three hits by tornadoes in an eight-year period, former Union City resident Larry Storie concedes that northwest Tennessee probably qualifies as the tornado alley of the 21st Century.
Late Tuesday afternoon, after diving into a neighbor’s storm shelter just in the nick of time, as the storm raged around them in the north Jackson area, Storie spent a harrowing 40 minutes in the company of two other adults, three dogs and two cats.
“It’s made me consider getting a storm shelter,” he said. “There have been three major hits on the Jackson area since 1999. There was 1999, then 2002 and now this one.”
Earlier today, as Storie shared the experience, his voice quivered at times as he relived the experience.
Storie, who until May 2004 owned and operated Storie’s Appliances in Union City, is employed at Coffman’s Home Furnishings in Jackson. For a while he commuted, but in 2007 he bought a house on Willow Branch Street in Hunter’s Green subdivision and moved there.
Danny Rowland, who works with Storie at the Jackson business, lived a nightmarish experience of his own at his home on Fawn Wood Cove in north Jackson.
About 5 p.m. Tuesday, both men had just gotten off work when the drama of survival began for each of them.
Storie’s drama
“I had just gotten off work. I went by a place called Lacey’s Barbecue and got a couple of sandwiches and headed home,” Storie said. “I had heard there was a possibility of some heavy thunderstorms. When I got home, my wife (Ava) called from Union City and said, ‘You got the TV on?’ I said no. She said, ‘There’s some tornado warnings out, tornadoes coming to your area!’
“So I got in a truck with Jason, our oldest son, and we went to a neighbor’s house two blocks away and got in her storm shelter. It was three adults, three dogs and two cats. We went in there at 6:40 p.m. and came out at 7:20 p.m.
“We had an FM radio and we had lights in there. It was scary but we felt secure because of the building we were in. We were about three quarters of a mile from Union University.
“We didn’t feel it come through. We just heard some noise. I remember that back in 1984 when a tornado came through Union City, it knocked a tree down on our house on Fifth Street.”
Storie said he didn’t know what the landscape might look like when he opened the doors of the storm shelter after the tornado had passed. He described his feelings as “a sense of dread.”
“You hear the noise. It was a pretty tight shelter we were in, even though it’s above ground. It’s sealed and has four locks on it. And the hail. We were pummeled by hail, three-quarter-inch hail. You just wonder what you’re going to step out into. Then you come out and see nothing but turn on the TV and see widespread destruction. I drove around yesterday and I couldn’t believe the destruction I saw.
“At Union University, the dorm rooms were blown wide open. You could look in from the street and see books still in their book shelves but walls blown out of the rooms and roofs blown off the buildings. It’s awesome.”
Storie agrees with the metaphor of a child stirring an ant colony with a stick and watching the ants run helter-skelter, not knowing how to cope.
“The tornado funnel is the stick. We are the ants,” he said. “Not much you can do about it either.”
Rowland’s drama
“We were one of the more fortunate ones in the storm,” Rowland told The Messenger. “We were better positioned. As it was touching down, coming through the neighborhood, we lost a fence and had slight damage to our house. Later, I stepped into the back yard and saw we’d lost a fence and a swing. As we got farther away from our house, the damage was worse.”
Rowland said he and his wife, Stephanie, didn’t see the funnel cloud and, in fact, didn’t wait around very long for it to appear. They took quick shelter in a closet.
“We have a 5-month-old son and a 4-year-old son,” Rowland said. “We were all hunkered down in a closet with a mattress over us. We heard the rumblings like that of a freight train coming through. We were listening to the sirens and the radio. Then it got silent and we heard the rumbling of the ‘train.’ I laid over on our little one. Stephanie laid over on Andrew. We stayed there until the ‘train’ passed by. We called it our prayer closet. We stayed in there, ate dinner, did story time and had prayer time and talked to our two boys.
“Later, we came out and checked on neighbors and passed out flashlights. “We don’t have a storm shelter at our house, but we sure are thinking about getting one now.”
Others affected
There they were — all dressed up and ready for an inspirational speech, courtesy of the famed Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals.
But “what might have been” was the way it turned out at the Madison County Fairgrounds Tuesday evening where attorney Steve Conley of Union City and friends had gathered for an auspicious occasion.
“There was a Boy Scout dinner set for that night,” Conley said. “It was a fund raiser for the Boy Scouts. Lou Brock was to be guest speaker.”
Well, the reception got under way, but it was quickly ambushed by Mother Nature.
“Tornado warnings started coming in,” Conley continued. “So we evacuated everybody to the basement of the Civic Center. We rode out the storm there. Several people had laptop computers and we were able to follow the storm’s path on the Internet. Also, several people in the crowd had cell phones. They were getting calls from concerned loved ones.
“There weren’t many kids there. Just two or three young men from Union City. Mostly adults in the crowd.”
The dinner and Brock’s speech ended up being canceled, Conley said. “We headed back to Union City in between the two major storm cells that racked the area,” he said. “We were fortunate that officials took quick action to evacuate everyone to a safe shelter. It was a serious storm.”
Published in The Messenger 2.7.08

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