Valley Grande residents replay severe storm

Published 4:36 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

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Valley Grande Resident Kathy Smith and her grandson were enjoying \Wednesday afternoon in the yard of Smith’s home on County Road 269.  That enjoyment and sunshine changed when a severe storm came through Valley Grande, causing damage to many trees and homes on Highway 81 and County Road 269.

“We were outside,” Smith said. “I was picking blackberries and my grandson was doing a scavenger hunt because we knew that the weather was going to be bad. I wanted to get the blackberries off the bushes before it got too bad.”

When the rain started to become more intense, Smith and her grandson decided to go inside.

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“It started to rain a little bit harder and it got much darker so we decided it was time to go inside before the storm came,” Smith said.

Smith made dinner for the two of them and right as the dinner had gotten done the power went out so she decided that it was a good time to eat.

“I had already cooked supper and by the time we got in and shut the door, my house is so well isolated that we heard nothing,” she said. “We had sat down and then the lights went out. My blinds are not up so you can’t see what’s going on outside. My grandson said’ Why don’t we go ahead and eat while the food is still hot?’ I said that sounded like a great idea. So, we started eating.

They did not hear what others described as intense winds coming from outside and Smith’s neighbor Patti Driggers started to call her multiple times.

“My next-door neighbor she had called and said ‘Hey a tornado had just touched down right here and you got trees down and limbs and everything,” Smith said. “Linda Dolbare is right across the street and Bobby Buchanan is right across the road from us they have trees down. Mike her husband had seen everything going on because he was looking outside. She (Driggers) said ‘Have y’all not heard anything?’ I said no not a word.” 

When the storm passed, Smith walked outside and realized the extent of the damage.

“When I saw the damage all I thought was Praise God we are all ok,” Smith said. “ I was just giving God all the glory.”

With rain and other bad weather in the forecast later that night, the West Central Alabama Baptist Association Disaster Relief jumped right in to make sure not only her house but one of her neighbor’s houses were taken care of before the second round of storms came through.

“I’m a firm believer that God does not bring the storms but allows them to come through,” Smith said. “He also allows us to clean up and he also everyone to come out and show love and work together. That’s exactly what the Valley Grande group has done and our West Central Baptist Association Disaster Team was outputting tarps up on 81 at Donna’s (Carter DePew) house. I can not applaud them enough for being what I call heroes. I know that they don’t look at themselves as heroes but when my husband’s brother called and said we need help we came to help. We knew nothing about how to put a tarp up it was like three hours in the making and then they show up and they do it in no time. On Rush Semore Road there were so many busy bees helping neighbors. That’s what this storm and every storm does is that people love like Jesus.”

Smith and others from the West Central Baptist Association Disaster Team came up to help Carter on Highway 81 after the storm on Wednesday night as well.

“I work in Pelham and it was just my normal time to come home,” Carter said. “It was about 5:10 in the afternoon when I turned down 81 and I couldn’t get here. I could see them cutting trees and I didn’t know how long it was going to be until it was clear.”

With the road to her home blocked off she decided to try to get to her home another way.

“I turned around and went around to come in the south entrance of 81,” Carter. “ It was worse down there as far as I could get further but I got turned around again.”

Finally, she was able to get to her home and survey the damage.

“I went back to my end of 81 and it was clearing up and I could get to my house. I got to my mailbox I was too focused on the house a couple up from me where they had a tree on the house,” Carter said. “I’m looking around at all the trees and I pull into my driveway and looking from a distance I could see a dark tarp had blown over the house I am driving up I could tell it was my roof. It was just pieces of my roof just peeled up.”

It wasn’t until she parked her car that Carter realized the extent of the damages.

“When I parked my car I saw that my deck was gone and so I went inside and the living room door was sucked open and there was blue sky coming in the ceiling.”

Inside her house, Carter saw what the storm had done to the furniture in the room.

“I’m hoping part of it is going to be ok,” Carter said. “My pride and join was under that hole it’s a baby grand piano. It had a lot of ceiling on it and it had water on it but it was closed so I have been able to get it wiped off and have it covered with a tarp.”

She said that having the group from West Central Baptist Association was a Godsend because without them she could have lost a lot more things in that room.

“They are the most amazing people I have met in all my life,” Carter said.

Growing up in the same house all her life when Carter needed help there was many who came out to help her.

“Several of the people who were up there were from the Sardis Volunteer Fire Department. They knew whose house they were coming to because this is the house I grew up in. This is my dad’s house and my dad is the founder of the Valley Grande Volunteer Fire Department. He knew everyone around so everyone who came to help already knew which house to come to and that meant the world to me.”