**Updated ways to help on May 4th.

We were so lucky in the storms last week.  We had no property damage.  No one got hurt.  And all of our loved ones are still safe.  However, the storms affected the entire state and we felt their effects as well.

We lost power around 5:15 pm last Wednesday, April 27th.  We were some of half a million people in the state to lose power and while we assumed the power would be restored quickly, the reports that we soon began getting suggested that we might not get power for close to a week.  Our power was finally restored around midnight (or so we were told) on Sunday, May 1st.

Our area was almost 100% without power for roughly 100 hours before some areas started getting power back.  This meant that by Friday everything in our fridge’s and freezer’s was basically spoiled.  We were left with only snack type foods in the pantry.  And with the threat that we needed to conserve water or we might lose it too we made the decision to cut bait and take a quick trip to Atlanta.  (I’ll post more about our entire experience along with pictures once I get there sequentially.)

The drive to Atlanta was startling.  We had been cocooned at Mom and Dad’s house virtually untouched from the storm except for the lack of power.  The guys played golf on an empty course on Thursday and Friday.  Mom and Dad’s hot water heater was very well insulated so even on Friday evening there was still hot water even if we were taking super quick showers so that other’s could partake also.  But as we started leaving town we began to see areas on the highway where the tornado hit.

Area’s like the area near Bridgeport where we saw downed trees on power lines for a mile and then saw huge swaths of trees split from a tornado.  We later drove through Ringgold, Georgia and were totally shocked to see the interstate exit totally flattened.  Tree’s were stripped of bark; signs were bent in two; and building upon building were leveled.  This damage was caused by the tornado that we watched via towercam come through Cullman Wednesday afternoon.  Our last brush with the storms was in Adairsville, Georgia where we saw every tree snapped in half for roughly half a mile.  That path was cut from the Tuscaloosa tornado — it was still causing destruction so many miles away.

After seeing that destruction it made it a little easier to imagine the devastation throughout our state, although I’ve been told you can’t really imagine it until you see it.  My heart breaks for these towns that lost everything (Phil Campbell being one) and those that just lost major areas of their city (Cullman and Tuscaloosa being two).  Our state has been dealt a major blow and over half of the counties in Alabama have been declared a Federal Disaster Area.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who have heard about these tornado’s and want to help.  There is a lot that you can do if you live here or if you don’t.  I’m going to list a few that I know of in case you want to help support our rebuilding efforts.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  All of the items listed below have someone that I know either directly or indirectly involved with them or are a reliable organization.  There are many other ways to help if you just get in contact with those in the state.

UA Greek Relief – to date the Greek community at The University of Alabama has provided roughly a third of the hot meals being donated across Tuscaloosa.  The fraternity men and sorority women have banded together to help their community in ways that are so admirable.  You can donate financially or through goods.  Follow them on facebook or Twitter to get up to date need requests.

Send baby goods through – Two women in Birmingham have set up “registries” on where items can be purchased and shipped to them and they will deliver them to victims as they are delivered (with free shipping!).  Go to and check out the registries of Brooke Rhind and Kate Fix.  Baby goods are desperately needed in the area.  Can you imagine not having diapers, wipes, or formula for your babies?  I can’t.  These parents need help!

– UA Acts of Kindness Fund – This fund has been set up to help students and employees of the University recover financially from the tornado.  Click here to go to the donation page or here to find out more about the fund.

– Donate to the United Way – Text ‘TORNADO’ to 50555 to give $10 to the United Way of Central Alabama for tornado relief.

Leslie Lambert is taking item donations and is updating her blog with more up to date items that are needed in town.  Email her if you want to send her a physical item donation and check out her blog to know what is needed in Tuscaloosa.

Buy a Sweet Home Alabama shirt – UA alum and North Alabama resident Maggie Crisler has designed these Sweet Home Alabama shirts and is selling them and donating the profits to the Red Cross for Alabama tornado relief.

– Buy a Sports Illustrated Alabama cover in an auction to benefit tornado relief

– My friend Hilary has two programs going on in her store, Mint Julep Monograms, to benefit tornado victims.  You can purchase an Alabama/Auburn kitchen towel as part of her “Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa” fundraiser.  Or you can purchase a gift certificate to benefit the Manna House in Huntsville, Alabama who is providing relief to families who are in need right now.  Hilary makes great products and it’s wonderful that part of the proceeds are going to support those in need.

– And something that only requires a few mouse clicks from you but directly benefits those in need, is that Ree (The Pioneer Woman) is donating twenty five cents for every comment received on her Quarters post.  In addition, on Friday she will choose four charities that people post in the comment and donate $500 to each of those charities!  This is something that won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time so please check it out!

– Buy Brad Paisley’s new single Old Alabama and he will donate all artist royalties to the Red Cross for tornado relief.

Erin Cobb’s sweet sister recently announced that she will donate 50% of her store proceeds from Sifted Vintage to tornado relief via Project Help Alabama.  Also, use coupon code “Alabama” for 25% off.

– Via Erin Cobb’s Ten on Tuesday (on Wednesday) post I also found out about Kids4AL and their first project called “Boxes of Hope” which gives children across the nation a chance to send small items to children in Alabama who have been victims of the tornadoes.

Judith March has made two dresses and is selling them with Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa and 100% of the proceeds will be donated.  Check out her blog post to see the dresses and then check out her website (later, I think) to purchase the dresses.

– Via Magnolias Marriage and Manhattan, Erin Gregory is donating 50% of her art sale proceeds from her Etsy shop to Project Blessings to help tornado victims.

In addition to all of this, our area needs prayer.  Prayer for the men and women that are working around the clock to try and restore power and water and other functions to our state.  Prayer for those who still have family members and friends missing and those that are searching for these missing persons.  Prayer for those who lost everything.  Prayers for those that haven’t been able to get back to their house yet to see what’s left.  Prayers for those who have lost loved ones.  Prayers for those leading our areas that they are guided in the correct direction in how to best recover our area.  Just prayers.  If you can’t help with a financial or physical donation, I ask that you pray for everyone that has been affected and will be dealing with the effects of the tornados for days, months, and years to come.  Please help get the word out about the devastation across the South and support us with your prayers.  Without God’s help we won’t be able to recover.

Things are getting back to normal where we live.  We have power and hot water although Jason still hasn’t been able to return to work due to lack of power at his office — we are hoping that he can go back tomorrow.  While the grocery stores are still packed and some items – like ketchup – are scarce on the shelves, the items that are essential are in the stores.  And while you see tree’s down in the neighborhoods near us, none of them are in houses.  But there are many communities across the state who are still dealing with the immediate effects of these storms and will be dealing with them for a good while longer.  April 27, 2011 is a date that will not be easily forgotten in my mind and in the state of Alabama.

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