Tree-less in Memphis

A week ago I received a harrowing email from my father about a violent wind and rain storm that wreaked total havoc on the entire metropolitan Memphis area:

“We had gale force winds Tuesday all over Shelby County. Nelta [my step-mother] and I were sitting at the breakfast table at 7:15a.m. She looked up and asked if it was supposed to rain today. I said a little bit and she pointed to the back yard. The neighbor’s trees were bending over and the rain was going sideways. About that time the kitchen picture window that we were looking thru began to bow in and out. I grabbed the shade and pulled it down and yelled, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ We ran thru the living room toward the back hallway and on passing one of the living room windows she screamed, ‘The tree is gone.’ We stayed in the hallway for several minutes while the storm raged and eventually decided to sneak a peek. The thirty foot maple tree in our front yard was split down the middle and 85% of the limbs and branches were lying across the sidewalk, mailbox, and partially in the street. It rained and stormed for another 40 minutes. As it subsided, the neighbors started to appear in their yards and driveways. Our subdivision looks like a war zone — fences down, trees on garages, cars, houses, debris (roof shingles, siding, screens, lawn chairs, etc.) was everywhere. We have no electricity, no phones, and approximately 270,000 people in Shelby Co. are without power.”

My father didn’t have power from last Tuesday morning through Sunday afternoon, over five days of no air-conditioning or fans in oppressive Southern humidity and heat. All of the food in his refrigerator went bad, and they had no hot water for the entirety of those five days.

I tried to find news about the storm, but it seemed that the national media either completely ignored the storm or carelessly overlooked the devastation because all I could find was one paragraph on about how the mayor of Memphis wanted to declare the place a disaster area. There wasn’t a sexy tornado or hurricane to blame it on, just your average, uninspiring 60 mph winds that uprooted trees and displaced small automobiles. Even a week after the storm over 80,000 homes STILL DON’T HAVE POWER.

To hear my father talk about it, you’d think he had just experienced a moderate level of interruption in his life. He had to take cold showers, yes, and he tossed and turned in stagnant, heavy air at night as he and his wife tried to sleep in an oven. But he was just so happy to be alive that it all didn’t really matter. He even said to me in classic Mike Hamilton fashion, “Daughter-of-mine, that thirty foot maple tree could have landed on my head. Life ain’t that bad.”

I grew up in Memphis, with tornado warnings and drills a permanent fixture in life (I slept in the bathtub with all my stuffed animals and Cabbage Patch Kids from third through fifth grade), and so I completely understand his sentiment. That’s why he needs to move to Utah where instead of worrying about the weather, we only worry about whether or not teachers are going to start shooting their students. It’s a fair trade-off.