I am a huge fan of the movie, “Twister.”

I love it so much I named my cat Toby after the dog in the opening scene; and I have a solid yellow plate at Grandma’s only I’m allowed to use — it looks just like the one at Aunt Meg’s.

But real life “Twister,” count me out.

I am deathly afraid of tornadoes, and I don’t think I really was until I came to Alabama and covered the Wetumpka tornado in 2019. I will never forget that day. It was all hands on deck, and I remember this sweet, sweet lady who allowed me to tour and photograph what remained of her home. The damage in her living room was unbelievable; I had never seen anything like it.

Then I took about five steps into the kitchen, and the salt and pepper shakers were placed perfectly on the small table. The cookbooks were all in line and the spices were neatly on their rack. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

That was is so terrifying about a tornado. It can hit in one spot, and five steps away, an untouched spot remains perfectly standing.

And for some reason, tornadoes seem to live behind blessings, hints of the God who is looking over each one of us — a cross still standing, an untouched Bible, framed family photos with the glass still intact.

The Jan. 12 tornado on Lake Martin left us the greatest blessing of all: No lives lost.

I always feel like I’m the overly cautious person. The text from Lake Martin EMA comes across as just a tornado watch, and I’m already thinking… “Hmm, should we get in the bathroom yet?”

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I wasn’t this person always. You’ll read in this paper about my good friend Paige Patterson, who admits prior to Jan. 12, she didn’t take tornadoes seriously enough. It always takes the worst to teach us a lesson somehow.

It was the same case for me. I always threw caution to the wind, until 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit. Although the damage wasn’t very bad here, the sheer amount of rain caused a giant tree to fall on my house — with me and my storm anxiety-ridden dog inside.

Since then, it’s all changed. I’d rather sit in the tiny guest bathroom with four dogs and a cat to wait out some raindrops than the alternative.

Instead of thinking, “It can never happen to me or my family,” let’s try to all take the Jan. 12 tornado as a lesson. It can happen to anyone, and it can happen when we’re least expecting it. The Jan. 12 situation went from zero to 60 in almost no time, and in my experience, those always seem to be the most damaging storms. Never wait until it’s too late. Always take cover.

I’d also like to take this time to urge not only city officials but also business owners and individuals to do whatever it takes to help everyone be prepared and safe in these situations. The lack of storm shelters around Lake Martin is unfortunate, and for many, they are useless if not pet-friendly. I live in a mobile home, and the best place we can go is the bathroom; I’m not leaving my babies behind.

If you have any space to take someone in or a business willing to open its doors, take that into consideration. It may save a life.


Lizi Arbogast Gwin is the managing editor of Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.