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I woke up last Wednesday morning around 4:30. The tornado siren was going off, and instead of jumping out of bed and screaming down the stairs, I rolled over and went back to sleep. The tornado sirens go off around here a lot, it seems, and most of the time it turns out to be nothing.

Fred came upstairs a little after 5 to say goodbye before he left for work. He told me that there were bad storms expected at various points during the rest of the day, but I was okay for at least a little while.

I rolled over and went back to sleep.

I got up an hour later and went about my usual morning activities, scooping and checking on cats, and doing my sweep of the downtairs looking for cat pee (you envy me my glamorous life, I know).

Around mid-morning, Fred called to see how the weather was, and I looked out the window and told him it was raining, but nothing too bad. As I talked to him, the rain picked up, and I reported that, then we hung up. I went into the living room and turned on the TV and watched the meteorologist show the lines of storms and where they were going. Fred called some more, we talked, we hung up, I started watching a recorded episode of Dr. Phil, and then I noticed that it was getting darker outside. I flipped back to the TV station and saw that bad weather was headed our way.

I decided it was time to go upstairs and bundle the McMaos into a crate and bring them downstairs to keep them safe, and stood up to do so when the wind outside picked up – and I don’t know how to describe it, but I have never seen or heard such violent wind, and it scared the crap out of me. I raced upstairs, (gently) tossed Maggie and the babies into their crate, and ran downstairs as quickly as I could. I stashed the crate in the closet under the stairs, and started calling cats. When they came to me, I put them in the closet, but as soon as I got them in the closet, they ran back out.

I finally gave up and stood in the doorway of the closet and hoped for the best.

When the wind died down and the rain slacked off, I ran and got the phone and called Fred. I was talking to him when I glanced out the side window and saw that a big tree on the church property had fallen across the ditch to our side yard. It fell perfectly, not taking down any power lines or hitting the garage. Then I walked to the back of the house and saw that a huge tree to the side of the chicken yard had fallen into the chicken yard. After the storm passed and the rain mostly stopped, I went out to see what exactly was what.

Y’all, I have never ever seen so much water back there. From the back of our back yard to the middle of the back forty was nothing but water. I stopped and shot a video from outside the corner of our back yard.

YouTube link

Then I slogged across the ditch (the bridge that goes across the ditch had floated away a bit) and though I was wearing my knee-high boots, the water was above that, so my boots were immediately full of water.

The tree in the chicken yard had fallen so perfectly – it missed the coop completely. Gracie ran over to me, but I didn’t see George anywhere. I called for him, but nothing. I wasn’t actually too worried that he’d been hit by the tree, because the dogs usually sit under the rain shelter at the front of the coop or inside the coop itself. I grabbed a few things that had floated away from the coop, checked inside the coop (the chickens in there gave me a look like “What do YOU want?”) and went over to talk to my next door neighbor.

This was from the chicken yard itself:

YouTube link

I had just opened my mouth to tell her we couldn’t find George, when she said “I see your babies are okay!” and I turned to see both George and Gracie standing there. We talked for a moment, and then I came inside to take the McMaos back up to the foster room. The babies were a little “What was THAT?”, but Maggie was pretty calm and went over to get a bite to eat.

A few minutes later, my neighbor’s son knocked on the door to tell me that my dog was out, and I ran to the back of the house, put on my boots, and went out to see George sitting near the back yard, being petted by my neighbor’s other son. I called to George, who excitedly ran over, and lured him into the back yard. I looked out to see Gracie in the chicken yard, told her she was a good girl, and went back inside the house.

I think at some point another line of storms went through, and I heard a meteorologist on one of the TV stations say that there was a line coming from Oklahoma that was going to make the morning’s storms look like child’s play. I reported that to Fred, and finally around 2:00 convinced him to come home from work.

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Fred got home and surveyed the damage, went out to check on the chickens, and we talked about what to do about the dogs. The fence that the tree had taken out meant that the dogs could leave the back forty whenever they wanted. There were some branches down on the fence in the yard around the blue coop, but Fred went out and moved them and straightened out the fence, and we decided to put the dogs there until we could get the chicken yard cleared and some temporary fence put in place.



George, clearly upset.

After we got the dogs moved, we went inside and watched the storm coverage. Which is when it got scary. First they reported that the bad line of storms was going to go south of this. A few minutes later, they reported that it was going to go north of us. To Fred’s mind, that meant they were going to hit us directly. We brought the McMaos downstairs and put them in the downstairs bathroom, and I was standing in the doorway of the closet while Fred went to the front of the house and looked out, then went to the back of the house and looked out, then back to the front of the house. All the while, I was yelling at him to get his butt into the hallway (ie, the center of the house), and he did for a minute, then went back to the window.

“Come look at this!” he yelled. I went to the window at the front of the house, and we stood there and watched an EF-5 tornado go by a mile south of us.

I don’t mind telling you, we were a TAD freaked out.

The weather calmed down, and at some point we lost power. We got out the radio and the flashlights and candles, and sat in the living room and listened to the radio. After a few hours, we headed up toward Athens to see if we could get a signal on my cell phone so Fred could check on his parents and sister. Fred was able to get hold of his father, then called and left a message for his sister and asked her to call their mother (his mother and stepfather recently changed their number, and do you suppose we have the number written down or programmed anywhere? Of COURSE not.), and then we came home and checked the animals and the house, then spent the evening listening to the radio.

When we went to bed shortly after 9, we had no power. Fred told me that if the power was still out Thursday morning (which we expected), he’d get out the generator and fire it up. We bought a generator 4 years ago and haven’t needed to even take it out of the box. However, shortly after 9:30, the power came back on and didn’t so much as flicker back off again.

Thursday morning Fred attempted to go to work, but after getting part of the way there and hearing that most of North Alabama was without power, he turned around and came home. After I got up, he asked if I wanted to go drive out to where the tornado we saw had passed, and we went out and did just that.







Water does not belong here, for the record, this is a field where cotton grows in the summer.



I didn’t get more pictures because I was too busy staring and saying “Oh my god!” The pictures you see on TV – and the pictures you see above – don’t do it justice. It truly looked like a bomb went off.

We got home and went out to start clearing the tree from the chicken yard. I’d been concerned that a chicken or two might have gotten hit by the falling tree, but as far as we can tell, the chickens are all present and accounted for, including all the chicks.



Fred was out working on cutting limbs of the tree, and I was checking on the McMaos, when I heard a knock at the door. By the time I got downstairs, whoever was at the door had left, and when I looked toward where Fred was working, I saw our neighbor’s son walking toward him. I went out and Fred looked at me and called “Get a carrier!”

Meet Dorothy.

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She showed up under a car in the driveway of our two-doors-down neighbor, howling. Our next door neighbor’s son lured her out with some meat, and he snatched her up and brought her over to us (we might have a reputation). She was a bit wild at first, but she’s pretty friendly now and the most playful little thing. We had her in the downstairs bathroom for the first day, then moved her over to the guest bedroom, where she’s currently residing. She’s going tomorrow for testing and possibly spaying (she weighed just at over 2 pounds; it depends on what the vet’s scale says); I’m guesstimating her to be about 8 weeks old.

By the end of Thursday, we’d gotten the tree across the chicken yard moved enough that we could get a temporary fence put up, and got the dogs moved back to the back forty.

I have to say that George and Gracie were absolutely amazing through this. It clearly bothered them a great deal to be away from their flock, but they behaved really well. They were overjoyed to get back “home”, that’s for sure.

I spent Friday doing my best to send and receive text messages to my family and Nance and getting word out that we were okay. I cleaned the house (we’d sent out the word that we had power and everyone was invited over to shower and do laundry and didn’t want them to see the squalor we usually live in) and spent lots of time with the McMaos.

Saturday and Sunday were spent hanging around the house, watching the TV coverage and reading. Our friends Jean and Robert came over to do some laundry and shower on Sunday, so we visited with them, which was nice.

At this point, it sounds like a lot of Huntsville and Madison has power back. Fred’s mother and stepfather don’t yet, and will be over in a bit to shower and do some laundry. Our internet and phone access is coming and going and I’m not honestly sure whether I’ll be able to get this posted, but we shall see.

In any case, I wanted you guys to know that we are just fine, that we were very very very lucky (not only that the tornado missed us, but also that we had power almost the entire time!) and all is okay here at Crooked Acres.

The hens never stopped laying.

A few people asked about the garden, which we just got planted last weekend. I don’t know. I haven’t been over there. I can’t stand to go look at it. Fred reported that the tomato plants are turning yellow, no doubt because of the water saturating the ground. I’m refusing to look at it myself until at least this weekend. This may be the year we just flat out refuse to do a garden. I don’t know.

I got word that Challenger’s House is okay (they may have power back now; I’m certainly hoping so). For those wishing to donate to relief efforts, I believe at this point that your best bet is to donate to the Red Cross. They’re coordinating everything and can always use money donations. Your thoughts and prayers for the families who have lost their homes and loved ones are always appreciated, too.

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During the time we were without internet, the McMaos have learned all KINDS of new tricks. They have learned:

1. How to use the litter boxes. I set up small litter boxes, filled with play clay (not clumping) litter. They’re not all using the litter boxes, and they’re not all using the litter boxes all the time, but the litter boxes are, for sure, getting some definite use. And this morning was the first time that I went in and saw that not only was there pee in the little litter boxes, but someone had pooped, too. Awwww.

2. How to climb. They’re climbing the little cat tree in the foster room like tree-climbing champs.

3. How to play with toys – Fergus Simon, especially, can bat the heck out of a jingly ball.

4. How to eat. Fergus Simon, Finnegan, and Declan have all been spotted eating some kibble and drinking water. They’re still depending on Maggie for most of their intake, I believe, but they’re certainly moving in the right direction!

I got a TON of pictures and videos for y’all, but for now I’m just going to post some of the pictures and get this posted. It’s getting late!

Assuming that our internet stays up, I’ll be posting as usual in the mornings from here on out.

“You come in here and have these babies crawl all over you and follow you around and bat at your tail, and then you’ll KNOW why I keep trying to slip out the door every time you open it!”

Cillian, keeping an eye on stuff.

Getting licked by kittens is like being kissed by angels. Until the biting starts, that is.

I love Macushla’s “frosted” look.

Hanging under the kitty hammock.

“Hey! Get over here! It’s time for the 10:00 meeting on the scratcher!”


They kill me with the cute.


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Joe Bob made sure the tornado didn’t get his scratcher.


2010: No entry.
2009: No entry.
2008: (Side note: If your heart doesn’t melt and pour out your belly button when Kara rubs her face against Kaylee, there is no hope for you.)
2007: No entry.
2006: No entry.
2005: No entry.



5-2-11 — 40 Comments

  1. Back when I was attending UAH in the late 80’s I went through one of those huge tornados, not fun. Glad to see you and your loved ones made it through fine.

  2. Wow, scary, scar, scary! As much as we complain about the long cold winters here in southeastern Ontario, we’re very lucky to live in an area that is relatively calm, weather-wise.

    We’re sending up purrs and purrayers for All Beings so tragically affected.

  3. Whew! What a close call! I’m glad everyone is o.k. – even the chickens. And the kittens are as adorable as ever.

    Finally, hello Dorothy. Lucky thing that tornado picked you up and got you to the right place!

  4. OMG! Very scary – I am so glad you were lucky and maybe only lost a fence and some plantings. I know clean up will be a lot of work, though. Your faithful readers are very relieved!

    ROFL! You didn’t… just didn’t… DOROTHY??? Too dang funny!! We’ll the little girl will feel like she woke up in OZ when she gets a load of the spoiling that goes on at Crooked Acres! πŸ˜€

  5. That is funny, Dorothy, but no Toto or wicked witch. I’m very happy that you,Fred and the animals are ok.

  6. I’m reminded of the Great Ice Storm that hit Quebec a few years ago… For some reason, our street was “forgotten” by crews working to restore power, and we spent 4 days without electricity. In winter. In Quebec. Suffice it to say we were not amused. Fortunately, we had a wood stove and were able to find enough firewood to stay warm (and make toast!) thanks to the generosity of a perfect stranger.

    Dorothy was very fortunate to find good people to take care of her!

  7. Amen to all the relief that everyone 2-legged and 4-legged is fine there!! Thanks SO much for the post and the videos and photos. And the old saying “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” comes to mind with Dorothy, what a cutie! and the McMaos have changed in just that short time. AWWWW!!!

  8. Dorothy! What a little doll. I wonder where she was during all of that. Maybe she stayed under the car, or under a porch. It’s amazing that so much damage can happen and then a teeny perfect little kitten emerges. I love her. πŸ™‚

    So glad you guys are OK and that all the trees missed everyone, even the chicks. Love the pic of the chicks and the rooster.

    I donated the other day to the fund that someone started that was going toward the veterinarians in AL that were working non-stop to take care of all the animals they were getting in.

  9. I don’t have the words to express how glad and relieved I am that you are all okay! In the words of the great humanist, R. Anderson, “That was skeery.” πŸ™‚

  10. Hi there.
    I am a reader from Canada, where tornados are rare, but we went through an ice storm about 12 years ago. Water is a powerful thing & I am glad to hear that you all made it okay & that you were able to take in another little one. I can’t imagine what it is like to go through that. God bless you & keep you safe.

  11. So glad you’re all okay. I hope things get put back together quickly down there. Also: Dorothy…I LOVE it! Perfect name.

  12. Dorothy is proof that beauty can come out of tragedy.

    I am soooo happy that all of you and Crooked Acres and your neighbors are ok…and that Dorothy was able to click her heels to “go home”. πŸ™‚

  13. So glad you survived unscathed ,I remember when we had a hurricane in 1987,and the sound the wind made was like nothing I have ever heard before or since,so Keep Calm and Carry On !

  14. Glad to hear all is well – that sounds terrifying!

    as always, super cute pictures…thanks for sharing!! πŸ˜€

  15. I’m another one who’s very, very glad to hear that you, Fred, and all associated fuzzies/featheries are okay. Whew! One downed tree and a lot of standing water–whew again! And I can’t help but snicker; you guys are even found by kittens in tornados! πŸ™‚ Hi Dorothy of the excellent, fitting name. What color are you, pretty, lucky kitty?

    I knew another kitty who was a tornado survivor. The poor thing was a catten – not a kitten but not full-grown either – who was trapped in rubble for *days* before they could get him out and bring him to the shelter I volunteered at. After he healed up he was a mellow, gentle, sweet pure white fuzzball. He got a zillion applications, and went home to an extremely nice older lady with a houseful of special kitties. Yay! And by the way, his name was Stormy. I was forever calling him Miraclekitty. πŸ™‚

  16. Robyn, Fred and all the critters at Crooked Acres, I am so glad that everyone is well and accounted for! What a scary scary event. It us unfathamable the power these storms can have and absolutely devastating consequences in lives! Our thoughts and prayers are with all the affected and we grieve for the loss of so many lives!

    I live in Ontario and as others have said from Canada, our tornadoes are fewer and relatively rare compared to the states. Although, we had one go through our town last June and I watched it go by my house through our front window!! When my brain finally beleived what my eyes were seeing, I grabbed the cats and hiked to the basement. The sound was just like a train going by. It passed right by our neighbourhood, so none of our houses were damaged but it did go through a trailer park and destroyed a few busineses on our main street! We had no loss of life but some minor injuries.

    Oh Dorothy, what a cutie..you are a long way from Kansas!! Hopefully you didn’t ride the storm all the way to Robyn and Fred’s! You have probably already realized, but I will tell you..if there is any place to find yourself, it is with Robyn and Fred. Are you tired of all the kisses you are getting? Are you a little flatter around the middle from Robyn squeezing the stuffing out of you? Too bad..there are squillions more to come!

    The McMaos are getting more adorable by the minute! I hope you get a picture when all of them decide to climb your legs when you walk in the room, cause you know that’s gonna happen πŸ™‚

    I’m glad George and Gracie are okay and glad to be back with their feathered family πŸ™‚

    • No way – are you from Midland?? I’m just outside of Barrie. Small world! πŸ™‚

      I too am happy that all is well at Crooked Acres. I was rather worried until it was posted that you were all safe and sound. Sounds like you had quite a scary experience πŸ™

      • Tanya, yes I’m in Midland πŸ™‚ Ha..it is a small world! See, it’s the kitties that bring the world together! πŸ™‚ I didn’t live here when the tornado went through Barrie some years ago but it was a bad one too!

  17. So wonderful to hear you, the kitties, the dogs and the chickens are all doing OK. Hugs and prayers for you and all the others dealing with the tornadoes.

  18. Another one up north, and who can’t help but compare your situation to the big ice storm years ago when we were without power for a week. πŸ™‚ I remember driving around and seeing all of the snapped trees and spending a lot of time saying “wow” and thinking it looked a lot like a bomb had gone off.

    I really liked this post. Thank you for sharing so much with us. I adore your humor and found it amazing that I was laughing and giggling through such a serious situation. I am so glad that most major damage was avoided and all of your crew is accounted for and survived. I can’t help but wonder what kind of omelette you are going to make with all of those eggs πŸ™‚

  19. I am so glad you guys are okay! Humans and animals. I was really worried when you didn’t post the last few days. Please try to stay safe and hug each and every critter (including Fred!)

  20. Having been through the floods here in Queensland, Australia, I certainly feel for you living through a scary storm like that! My heart goes out to those that weren’t so lucky.

    Having followed your blog for years now (WOW) can I just say this was such a human insight for someone so far away. Like reading about a far-away family member. I’m glad that you and all the feathered and furry ones are ok.

    Good luck with the recovery. As we can attest to in Australia, it won’t just be about rebuilding. Make sure you and Fred look after each other, sometimes the real impact of these things isn’t felt until months later. Stay safe.

  21. Thank heavens that all of you got through the horrendous weather! Dorothy is beautiful, and something of a miracle.
    Life goes on, the kitten’s ears are migrating upwards and they are growning as all kittens do, but somehow I think this is a season you will never forget. Hugs!

  22. Good grief!! Thank goodness you and all your animals are ok!! Oh wow!! Such devastation – it’s been awful just reading about it here in the UK as it is, so my heart and prayers are with y’all living through this mad weather!

    Awww but look at Dorothy!! She’s a baby!!! Poor little thing! thank goodness for you’re there for her and thank goodness for your neighbour to rescue her too!

    The McMoas are getting to be so big!! They’re as super cute and as wonderful as ever! Hello there lovely Maggie and Joe Bob!!!

    Stay safe please and take extra extra care! x

  23. Glad to hear you are all ok and the property is almost all ok, too. Welcome Dorothy, is she from Kansas then? How cute are the babies? When did their ears pop up?? Awww and that George and Gracie, they look so goofy and soo full of love and joy. May you all be safe and well and get things sorted in no time. Kisses to all the kids.

  24. Relieved to hear your damage is light, except maybe the garden. And your power loss wasn’t very long. Wait, Fred thought of a generator but not a party pontoon? πŸ˜‰

    The babies are changing so much! Ears mostly up, tabby patterns and colors changing, teething, (poor Maggie!) and using the box. I’m not the only one who is looking forward to all the photos, videos and updates you wanted to post but didn’t have internet. I’d expect service to be spotty while so much area needs to be re-built. Do the babies still wiggle their ears when they nurse?

    I live in Kansas City, trained weather spotter for NOAA for 17 years. Your local NOAA does free classes in the spring. Along with heavy rain and hail damage, the winds, both tornado and straight line, push debris which causes more damage and debris. It is horrifying to watch and yet almost hypnotic. The national news outlets did a good job of showing the extent of devastation. I sent a donation to a shelter rather than Red Cross. So many people have lost everything. There will be pets that are lost as well as pets that now have no family to look for them. Neighborhoods don’t look the same, pets get just as confused trying to figure out where they are after such events. Kansas City area animal shelters have been taking pets brought from shelters that are in flooded areas of southern Missouri from the same storm system that went through Alabama.

    When things are back to normal I will tease you about trying to herd cats.

  25. Hi Robyn, Just had a thought about the garden plants. Since you just planted them last week, it might work to save them by digging them up and putting them in pots or a flat. If things dry out in the next week or so, you could replant them in your beds.

    I know. I know. All that extra work. But it would be less expensive than losing them altogether. And you’d get fresh veggies which would be better than getting none.

    My guess is that the plants’ growth would be stunted as they cope with multiple transplantings and maybe even yields would be less. But less is better than nothing, right?

    Just a thought…

  26. I’m a reader in N Alabama. We got through just fine too (though without power from Wednesday night til Sunday evening) and I’m relieved y’all and sundry animals are okay. Scary scary weather.

  27. I am SO glad everyone on Crooked Acres is fine and dandy. And I’m ver’ impressed with the name of the newest resident there! πŸ™‚

  28. Add me to the list of people who were so glad to hear that everyone is ok at Crooked Acres. The loss of life was heartbreaking. I visited the Facebook Animals Lost & Found from the tornado and had a long cry. I can’t imagine how terrible that would be. I am so glad that Dorothy found her way so a safe and loving place.

  29. Just wanted to say how glad I was to read your post. I live in Minnesota and we have had hardly any dangerous weather so far this spring. It’s been really chilly and we had snow flurries mixed in with the rain yesterday (ON MAY 1) and I think that’s why we’ve not had more than one or two small tornados so far.
    When I was kid, my brother and I stood on our back steps and watched a tornado take out a neighborhood five blocks away. Then it skipped over the Mississippi River and took out most of one suberb of Minneapolis. My mother was screaming at the top of her lungs for us to get into the basement with everybody else but we just couldn’t stop watching. Like the other poster said, it was so hypnotic, you couldn’t turn away. I have been so frightened of storms ever since that day. It seems everyone has a story of Nature’s wrath.
    Anyway, so glad you escaped with minor damage and that all the residents of Crooked Acres came through unharmed. Thanks for sharing the pictures of the damage around your area.
    And I’m so glad Dorothy found her way to your house.

  30. So glad to hear you and your family (human, feline, et al) are safe. How scary!

  31. So here is everyone thinking you’d lost some kittys, and you come up with an extra one instead!

    As a kid I lived in Ohio where tornadoes were not exactly common, but happened. I got a tour through Xenia after the ’74 storms that leveled the place. There’s something extra unsettling about something that can just scatter a house like a pile of matchsticks.

  32. Oh wow, I am so glad you are all ok and hopefully that no one you know had too much damage (other than maybe some lost ice cream due to lack of power). I have been to Alabama once – Tuscaloosa actually, and seeing the damage there was just so horrible. I can sympathize with your attempts to gather the cats in the closet – we get tornados here too (usually the don’t touch down but last year one went by close enough to hear it) and I have given up and always end up resorting to carriers for all of them which is difficult in our tiny bathroom refuge (the only option at our place – have to triple stack the carriers it is so small). I am so happy all the animals are safe and that you have the ability to help the newbie Dorothy – she is beautiful. I hope her tests come out well (I am a day behind so I have to read the post for today for an update). I hope the McMaos aren’t too freaked out by storms in the future after this (heck, they look fine) and that the garden isn’t too bad off.

  33. Oh Robyn! I am so HAPPY everyone is OK! I totally missed this entry yesterday, not surprising since it was Monday and I usually don’t remember my name on Mondays.

    Poor Dorothy! I hope she wasn’t too long outside during the storms. πŸ™ But she’s looking pretty safe now.