The sun finally came up.
We'd known that our Holly Tree was down on the Well House but we hadn't realized that one of our 100 year old Pecans had fallen when the barn came down. It now lay across the entire space between that barn and our patio. My camera flash had not picked up that tree as I stood in the back door the night before trying to see the damage. The photo below is what we should have seen that morning (except that we'd been laying white stone in the pathways and were almost finished and we'd just laid new sod; the photo below was taken about one week before the storm):
The Holly Tree just missed taking out the gazebo while the Pecan Tree's top lay literally inches from the new patio. The hot tub lid had blown off the tub and through the frame of the wall knocking out one post (David saw it blowing around the inside of the gazebo right before he saw the Holly come down during the storm - when he should have been in the Harry Potter Cupboard but I digress).
The Camper looked funny looking at it from the patio; it seemed that its front end was going down hill. We'd learn when we left to go get coffee that it had been blown off its support block.
We went out the front door and surveyed the side and front yards. The tree house tree was topped. It's limbs lay on our front fence corner and our 50 plus year old azaleas.
Sheet metal roofing was in the trees (Click on the next photo for a larger view).
Yet, even though photos had fallen off the walls as the tornado first began to hit us, it appeared that other than a missing screen or two and a piece of wood sticking out of one screen, the house escaped any real damage. The photo below shows the windows to the room where photos were falling off the walls as I ran upstairs yelling for Hunter. One screen disappeared and the other had a piece of wood stuck in the screen. What you can't see is the bathroom window screen is also missing. (We'd later learn that the downstairs bathroom roof would need to be totally replaced.)
Still without power, David and I went to town for coffee and this is what we saw on our return drive around the road that surrounds the field that the tornado had traveled across. Underneath all that mess was our chicken coop, all of our lawn machines, building materials for the completion of the gazebo and well, just about everything we owned that didn't belong in the house. The tree you see between the gazebo and the barn is where we usually park our vehicles; it had smashed the back fence and part of it lay in our parking spots. What a blessing that we'd parked both of the vehicles beside the barn instead of in their usual spots. It is likely that both of them would have been totaled under that tree.
Just as we approached the house, Hunter texted to say "The chickens SURVIVED!" The following photo had been taken before we'd left the house for coffee. Approaching the coop from the front of the yard, this is what we could see of their coop. Based upon what we could see, we were sure the chickens had not survived this since we had not heard our rooster crowing.
Here's a closer shot of the coop, you can see the wire of their enclosure. After we'd cleared a path to the barn area, we could see the little red house they'd slept. Its legs had been demolished and the boxy coop had smashed to the concrete below, but somehow it had stayed pretty much intact. The chickens made their way out of it about 7 a.m.
Later that morning, the news folks would arrive to interview us. David agreed to be on camera. I didn't want to speak on camera but the interviewer was GOOD...after interviewing David, he promised me "only one question". The adrenaline now pumping through my veins at the realization of just how close we'd come to losing our 100 plus year old home got me started. After telling him about the few minutes during the storm, I finished by telling him that anyone looking at the destruction that stopped just inches from our house before jumping to the other driveway would have to believe as I did that Angels were sitting on our rooftop batting away sheet metal and tree limbs. I still believe that.
ELKTON, Fla. -- It was a terrifying night for families in St Johns County. Many today believe it was a tornado that ripped though Saturday night.
"A couple limbs bounced off the side of the house, knocked pictures off the walls," said David Wilke...... (Read more....)
And then we got down to the business of cleaning it all up. After all, we had a wedding to get ready for!
(P.S. One thing we learned during this is that there is a danger of reporters not quite getting you say correctly edited; readers here know that the Barn is not ours but belongs to the Farmer across the street. It used to belong to our property in 1909 until the mid 1960's when our Farmer bought it. And I lived in the Mid West as a child, David and our kids are Florida born and raised)