It was March 1st, 2017 at 7:00 in the morning. I was drying my hair when my daughter burst into my room.
“Mom, the sirens on our phones are going off. It woke me up.” I didn’t hear it because of the hairdryer.
“What are the sirens for, honey?”
We stopped and listened. We could also hear the weather sirens blaring from the local elementary school.
Suddenly, a jolt hit the house and the electricity blew out. I immediately knew what was happening. Bodie was sound asleep.
“It’s a tornado! Run! We need to get Bodie!”
I ran in his room and yanked him out of bed with one arm like a rag doll. “Get up! Get up!! Run!! Tornado!!”
We ran downstairs to the small bathroom and huddled on the floor. It was pitch black. I forgot the pillows. I forgot the pillows. How did I forget pillows? Should I run out and get pillows? I heard debris pounding against the house and the house was swaying side-to-side, but all I could think of was the fact that I had forgotten to get pillows to cover our heads.
My daughter was sobbing. It’s okay. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.
I clearly remember thinking to myself Why are you telling your kids it’s going to be okay when I have no idea if we are going to be okay….especially since I forgot pillows!
The sound of debris hitting the house died down, so I opened the bathroom door and and looked out my back window.
The Damage and Costs
We had a massive 100 foot weeping willow tree towards the back of our yard. It had been ripped out the ground at the root and fell towards the house. Thankfully, the tree was at the back of our property. If it had fallen on our house, it would have been catastrophic. The tree crushed our trampoline and part of our fence.
Cost: $6000 for tree removal + trampoline and fence repair
The awning on our back patio was ripped to shreds
The outdoor furniture was thrown 100 feet and slammed against our house
Gutters and roofing blew off the house and landed in our front yard
Full sized soccer goals were tossed across the yard. One was crushed by the willow tree and the other slammed against our house
Exterior lighting shredded and destroyed
Three parts of our fence blew away
Our next door neighbor’s chimney crumbled to the ground.
We sustained almost $25,000 of damages to the exterior of our house
Then The News Station Showed Up At My House
Minutes after the tornado struck, my neighbors and I were standing in our street talking about what happened and what damage we each sustained. A news truck from our local station pulled up. The news reporter said “We hear the tornado struck your neighborhood. Can we look at a few of your homes and see the damage?” Sure.
They determined my house had the worst damage. The reporter was talking to someone at his station and I heard him say “I’m here at the homeowners house right now….it’s pretty bad….we’re going live?…okay….5…4….3…2…1”
Wait? What!?!? You are filming me live?!? My hair is soaking wet!!! Where is your hair and makeup crew?!??!
I grabbed my hoodie and threw it over my head…and my interview was all over the news that day. How embarrassing. (photo above is a screen shot from the news story)
What I Learned
- Take those tornado warnings seriously. I grew up in Texas and have lived in ‘tornado alley’ my entire life. I always blew off storm warnings. But I learned on March 1, 2017 that Mother Nature is a beast and she will strike at any time. And you will not win.
- Every year we hear on the news about F4-F5 level tornadoes who do significant damage along with a high death toll. The tornado that hit my house was an F1. This chart from The Tornado Project shows the various strengths of tornadoes and the damage they can cause:
How To Deal With The Home-Owner’s Insurance
Unfortunately, the insurance companies want to give you as little money as possible. The first adjuster who came to our house only gave us $6500. That was hardly enough to pay for the tree removal. He said the tree was not covered because it did not hit a “permanent structure” (house).
So we asked for a second adjuster to come out. He gave us about $10,000 more dollars for repairs.
Then we called a third adjuster. He pitched in for the exterior lighting ($6000) as well as new soccer goals, patio furniture and other miscellaneous things that were not initially paid for.
It took three different adjuster (all with three very different opinions about what should and shouldn’t be covered) to have all of our losses covered dollar for dollar.
My advice to you: If you ever have to file a home-owner’s claim, ask for at least three adjuster to come out.
I think about the countless families who have lost their lives and entire homes to tornadoes and other disasters. It happens so fast.
These moments make me count my blessings and be very thankful it wasn’t worse than it was. The only thing we lost that was not replaceable was that willow tree.
Have you ever been in a tornado or other natural disaster? What’s your story? Were you able to have everything covered through insurance?