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The stories of tornado survivors in Cairo all have “happy” endings. They all lived to talk about it, thankfully. We talked to several people and asked them to share their experiences.
Petulia Morton, a first grade paraprofessional at Eastside Elementary School, says she was at home with her husband, David, a City of Cairo firefighter, when the tornado destroyed their home, located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and First Street Southwest. “It started out as a normal Sunday. We went to Tallahassee after church and had come back. We had the TV on the news, because we knew bad weather was coming,” Mrs. Morton recalls. She says she called her parents and sister to check on their welfare when the wind suddenly picked up and she ran to an interior hallway.
Morton says her husband had been cooking. “He ran to the kitchen to make sure the stove was turned off,” she says. Suddenly, a tree fell onto the kitchen area, then another tree fell onto their back porch and through the house into a front living room.
“We were on the floor it seemed like forever. I heard a window in the back bedroom at the end of the hall bust out. You could hear stuff flying through the window into the bedroom,” she says.
Still feeling unsafe, the couple crawled their way to an interior bathroom.
“Everything was shaking, the whole house. Stuff was falling from walls. It sounded like the house was coming off the foundation. You could feel it shaking and feel the pressure blowing,” she says.
The couple was trapped in the house for 2.5 hours, and only managed to make their way out through a bedroom window.
“I’m just traumatized from it all. I’ve not been able to sleep. . .I get this feeling in my stomach,” she says.
Down the street, Alan Parks was home with his wife, Lisa, when the tornado hit. “We were watching the weather when the thing hit,” says Mr. Parks. “I heard it coming and then the siren down there at the fire station went off.”
The couple rode out the tornado in a hall closet, he says.
“We had a lot of stuff hitting the house. Debris. We heard it and we heard several big pieces hit the roof,” Parks describes. “We got probably about 20 trees down around us, and the good Lord was taking care of us, because only a couple of big limbs hit the top of the house.”
Parks says his wife’s 20 pygmy goats were in their barn, and although the roof blew off, the goats survived intact. He says their 200 chickens also made it through unscathed.
“It was an experience you definitely don’t want to live through again,” he says, “but, overall, we can’t complain because we were very blessed, the Lord was with us. He laid that stuff right where it needs to be laid.”
Parks’ nearby neighbor, Teresa Gee Hardy, managed to make it to a safe area in her Crescent Circle S.W. home just as the tornado spun overhead. “The siren came, and then the train (sound of the tornado), and then it was so calm and peaceful after that,” Mrs. Hardy says.
A neighbor’s trampoline apparently bounced over Hardy’s home in the tornado, because afterwards, it was in a wooded area on the opposite side of her house from where it was supposed to be located.
Up the road at Clark Funeral Home where employee Dylan Carroll resides, Carroll was playing an online video game, Fortnite. He says he heard noises, including when his cell phone alarm went off to warn him about the weather, but he ignored it.
When he felt the room move, though, he finally took off his headset. “I looked out the window and saw rain and leaves hitting it, then the power went out,” Carroll says.
Luckily, emergency lighting came on as he ran downstairs. “It was like I was in a blender, kind of, everything was going around me everywhere,” he says.
With his Mom on the telephone with him, he hunkered down in a downstairs closet. “I couldn’t hear her well, because it was so loud,” he says. ‘It was a hundred sounds of everything, the wind, the trees, the tin hitting the ground. When I went outside, it was like a war zone.”
Grady County paradmedic and EMS shift supervisor Michelle Shoe was riding in the back of an ambulance with her team after responding to a structure fire Sunday night. They did not have a patient in the truck when another medic in the ambulance who is from Kansas saw on her phone that radar indicated a tornado was in Cairo. She started screaming for the driver to stop. Shoe says the medic and driver jumped from the truck and took cover under a pole until they could run to Family Dollar. Shoe tried to open a side door to get out of the ambulance, but the wind was too strong, so she stayed in the truck, which her co-workers later told her nearly became air borne.
“They said it lifted the truck 6-inches off the ground,” Shoe says. “At time, I wasn’t scared. I just wanted to make sure my crews were o.k. If we would have kept driving, it probably could have turned out a lot different.”
Shoe said another ambulance crew did have a patient they were trying to get to the hospital Sunday night, but, they took cover inside Wal-Mart with the patient. “They knew it was a little bit safer inside the building,” she says. The patient eventually made it to the hospital, she says, thanks to the ambulance crew.
In the Wal-Mart parking lot, Steven Childs and his son, Asher, were washing their trucks when their cell phones rang in alarm about the tornado warning. With Asher in the lead driving his pickup truck, Steven Childs followed behind in his truck that also had a trailer attached to it. The two maintained a cell phone conversation as they drove East on U.S. 84 and turned south onto GA 93/Fifth Street Southeast. As they reached Eastside Baptist Church, the situation took a turn for the worse. “Power lines started exploding with fire and both his truck and mine started shaking,” Mr. Childs describes. Asher told his Dad that he was turning into the Labor Department parking lot.
The two parked their trucks behind the office building, along with another motorist, and rode out the tornado.
“There was junk flying across that road. It’s a wonder we didn’t get hit. I think we were on the north edge of the tornado,” Childs says.
He praised his son for thinking quickly and getting off the road. “If we had kept going,” he says, “we’d have been on top of that overpass in the middle of it.”
Childs says, “The good Lord was with Grady County.”