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Miracles In The Storm
May 16, 2011

-------Miracles In The Storms-------

The largest recorded tornado outbreak in U.S. History occurred on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Many people lost their lives, many others were injured, homes were destroyed and damaged and many businesses were demolished. If that wasn't bad enough, victims of the storm had to and still are dealing with looters. It's bad enough to lose your home but to have someone steal what possessions you have left shows how debased man can be. Fortunately, there were also many good things done by volunteers as well.

I work from home as a customer service representative for Whirlpool. On that particular day, I had to work in the call center for training on how to sell the new Extended Service Plans that Whirlpool was making available to the public. I was supposed to begin training at 3:30 PM. It never happened.

An EF2 tornado had already struck Bradley County that morning knocking down some trees, power lines, and damaging or destroying some homes. However, the storm had moved on and skies were partly sunny. It seemed a little surreal that weather forecasters were calling for more severe storms later that day. In fact, schools were released 3 hours early because of the forecast.

The town of Cleveland, Tennessee resides in Bradley County. Before the April 27th was over, 4 more tornadoes would touch down in Bradley County, one being an EF4 category that started in Ringgold, Georgia and ended up in Polk County causing mayhem and chaos for several miles killing at least 27 people in three counties. Bradley County was the hardest hit county in Tennessee while Alabama and Georgia got hit even harder.

During my lunch break, I had lunch at Captain D's before returning to the workplace. The weather was pleasant at the time but I could see clouds rolling in. I was sitting in my car listening to the radio to get an update on the weather. The radio station broadcast a tornado warning effective immediately for Bradley County. The time was 3 PM. I got out of my car and went into the call center which had set off the alarm for tornado warning. The warning was to expire at 4 PM.

All 400 employees had to stand or squat in the long hall in the center of the building until the warning expired. About 10 minutes before 4 PM, we were told we would be going back to work at 4 PM. It never happened. Another tornado warning for Bradley County was issued and we had to remain where we were until 5 PM. With one hour remaining on my shift and the training rescheduled for another day, I worked until 6 PM when another tornado alarm went off. I knew it was not presently storming at the call center so I went home (I was told by supervision at my own risk).

My wife, who was glad I was home with her, knew more storms were coming so we went to the basement and watched the weather channel for updates. We expected to lose power at any moment and wondered if we would be in the path of an oncoming tornado. The storm cells came one every hour for several hours it seemed like. Thunder and lightning, heavy downpours, and occasionally hailstones came in wave after wave but we never lost our power and the twisters never struck close to our home but parts of Bradley County resembled a war zone in the aftermath.

As we watched the Weather Channel broadcasting live the huge tornado that plowed through Tuscaloosa and other Alabama towns and seeing t one storm cell after another on the radar screen moving in, I got the sense or the impression that we were under attack by some supernatural force.

Bradley County schools were closed for a week and half because two elementary schools in the area were badly damaged and some area roads of the county were blocked by fallen trees.

As devastating as these tornadoes were, stories of miraculous survivals began to emerge. Two stories were reported in the Sunday, May 8th edition of the Chattanooga News Free Press and one was given to our church as one of the church members gave her testimony of how God answered prayer in the middle of a storm. The Weather Channel showed that a woman and her two daughters rode out a tornado in a tanning bed and were not harmed.

The restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday's had a restaurant located in Ringgold, GA. There were 15 guests and 8 workers inside this restaurant when an EF4 category tornado struck it. The same tornado that moved into Apison and Cleveland, Tennessee. All 23 survived with minor injuries. All that remained of the restaurant was the stone framed entrance and the three walls of the kitchen according to the News Free Press article.

Just before the twister struck, the manager and assistant manager were hurriedly trying to get the people into the kitchen where the freezer was. They never made it to the freezer. Most of the people in the restaurant had made it to the kitchen when the manager was propelled several feet forward by a blast of wind. The pastor of a Church of God flew against her, slamming into her back, and knocking her on top of another guest on the floor. The guest struggled to get out but she was held down as the roar of a freight train sounded as the tornado flew through the restaurant walls. Then it was over. The twister had moved on. Everything had gone dark.

Going back to the site, the pastor looked at what remained. When the manager had yelled for everyone to run to the kitchen, it was only a few seconds before the tornado hit. The pastor stated that "If I had been two seconds longer, I would have been buried in the dining room. I believe an angel of the Lord pushed me."

The other story reported in the Chattanooga News Free Press occurred in Apison, Tennessee and it was the same EF4 tornado that first struck Ringgold, GA then moved on into Bradley County.

A father and his 16 year old son were called by their neighbors on a cell phone. The neighbor's house had been destroyed by the tornado but spared the father and son's home. The neighbor's needed help. Hiding in the closet, the family of four found themselves piled on top of one another after the tornado had struck but they were okay for the time being. However, they had a real problem. There was a 1,200 pound safe on top of them pinning them down.

Making their way through a quarter mile of of fallen trees blocking their path, the father and son made it to the pile of rubble that had once been their neighbor's home. They located the safe in the dark with the help of flashlights and calling out the names of the trapped family. Neither man was strong enough to lift that safe but that night they pulled it off the top of their neighbor's pinned bodies with very little effort. These same men went back to the house the next day and they could not budge that safe.

I'm sure there were many more miracles that occurred during this tornado outbreak but I know of only one more. It is the testimony a fellow member gave before our very large congregation at Mt. Olive Ministries. I don't know her on a personal level and I don't remember what her name was so I will call her Jill.

Jill stated that she, her husband, 8 yr old daughter, and her dog and cat were huddled in the corner of a basement when they heard the wind getting louder and could see through a hole or a window in the basement debris flying in the air. Jill's 8 year old daughter was getting very scared, nervous, and fidgety.

In an effort to calm her daughter down, Jill asked, "Who's your Creator?". Her daughter replied, "Jesus". "Who's your Savior?" "Jesus" and "Who's Got Your Back?" "Jesus!" At that moment the family prayed as the storm got closer and closer. Suddenly, there was an instant calm in the air. There house was spared.

Later, when Jill was talking to one of her neighbor's, Jill was told that her neighbor had looked out at the window and saw a funnel cloud starting to suck up Jill's stuff. The neighbor then told Jill that the funnel cloud suddenly shot back up into the clouds sparing Jill's house. Jill said that was when her family was praying and they were praying in the name of Jesus.

I have been alive for 53 years and I do not recall ever seeing a storm system behave like that one did. Over 500 hundred families lost their homes in Bradley County and 9 people were killed. Driving around town during my normal daily routine, I could see where huge trees had blown over in people's yards. Miraculously, these trees did not hit a house or a car.

I realized that although there was a lot of damage done, it could have been much worse. The reason it wasn't was because Jesus had their backs.

Copyright 2011 by Gary Goodworth

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