Heading back south from my fantastic summer in Michigan, I once again passed through Alabama. When I checked in at The Woods RV Park in Montgomery, I told the lady at the desk (Elaine) I was planning only one night unless it was raining in the morning because I avoid driving in the rain if at all possible. It was bright and sunny at that point, but she told me the local weather man was actually forecasting a pretty severe thunderstorm passing through in the morning. She also said that if I heard loud sirens going off to come to the office immediately because that meant a tornado had been spotted in the area. She said the office is a specially designed, official shelter. She must have seen the look of concern on my face, because she kindly told me she’d put me in a pull through site close enough to the office to get there easily.
I remember looking back at it from my RV and thinking it didn’t look especially sturdy to me…
but it would certainly be better than my flimsy motorhome! (The brown building is the office.)
The next morning really didn’t look nearly as threatening as forecast – it wasn’t raining but the skies were grey and gloomy, I had client work to do, so I decided to stay another day anyway. When I went to pay for another night, Elaine again reminded me that if I heard the siren, to come to the office immediately.
But I really wasn’t too worried at that point, so before getting down to work, I posted to my Facebook friends that I wasn’t amused at yet another tornado warning in Alabama. I had “been there, done that” in April, which was the first time I had ever heard a real tornado siren go off. It really gets your attention, let me tell you – it’s really, really loud and insistent! I blogged about that in “Welcome to Alabama.”
But as soon as I hit the button to post my comment, I heard the tornado warning siren go off – like it was right next door to me, it was so loud! I grabbed my purse and phone (and camera like last time, of course) 🙂 and headed to the office. It still wasn’t raining at that point, but I could see the skies had definitely darkened since I had walked back to the RV.
The sirens were blaring at this point, but it was only raining a little bit, so I took this shot as I got to the office.
Both the owners, Elaine and Bob, were there with the local weather station on the TV and also holding a battery powered radio in case the power went out. They were welcoming new people coming in off the road along with the people already staying in the campground. Bob turned on the popcorn machine and soon the office was filled with that great scent, as people were standing around talking introducing themselves. RVers are an innately friendly group as it is, but an event like this brings us together even more. I met some neat people from Ontario and another couple of fulltimers as we munched on popcorn and glanced over at the TV every now and then, especially when the sirens kept going on and off.
But Bob and Elaine assured us we were as safe as humanly possible in a building if a tornado hit. Bob told me about the special polysteel construction method and material used – some kind of styrofoam blocks stacked with steel are built into the floors and walls. The walls are made of 8″ thick solid poured concrete, but the entire width of the walls are about 14″ – 15″ thick with the foam insulation added. They also demonstrated the special storm windows:
We heard that a funnel cloud was spotted about 4 miles from us and at one point, the rain and wind got a lot stronger and the leaves were whipping around after being stripped from the trees, but the brunt of the storm went over us without touching anything down or tearing anything apart.
I took this with my cell phone as the worse passed by – you can hardly see the RVs across the road that were so visible just a few minutues before – those streaks are leaves blowing across.
It was all over pretty shortly and afterwards, I asked Elaine and Bob to pose in front of the office/shelter.
In getting the chance to visit with them a little bit more than usual, I was impressed that this is a true family enterprise run entirely by the family. They built this park about 6 years ago, their son Robert, and daughter-in-law Shana, help manage it and they live onsite. They’ve RV’d for years, love the lifestyle and the people, so building and running an RV park was their dream. You can tell they love what they do by the way they treat their guests.
In fact, even before I arrived, Elaine made me feel welcome. By the time I turned off of I-85 onto 80 to get to The Woods, I called to make sure the GPS was not misleading me and that it was 8 miles from where I was and where to turn. It was raining at that point and I hate driving in the rain, especially in the motorhome. She knew exactly where I was and told me all the things I was seeing and going to see on the way and exactly when to get into the turn lane and what I would see when it was time to turn. This was very reassuring to me being as tired as I was after driving all day and her friendly welcome was even more appreciated.
Elaine said it all when I thanked her for her kindness and told her how impressed I was with how they handled this tornado scare and how they were handling their business. She said, “We just treat people the way we want to be treated.” Thanks, y’all!