On December 23, 2014 at approximately 2:18 p.m., an EF-3 tornado carved a path 12 miles long into our small town. There were two people killed, a young mother and an elderly woman. Dozens were injured. The destructive tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 108 homes and 43 businesses. The path began a few miles west of the Lampton community, where several families resided in wood framed or mobile homes. Many of those families had little, now they have nothing. It then carved into the heart of major businesses along Highway 98, ripping apart brick and steel buildings. Construction businesses, oil companies, retail stores, gas stations, hair salons, pharmacies, gift shops, auto parts stores, an auto detail shop, medical supply company, welding shop, storage buildings and a dialysis center were destroyed or received major damage. As it stormed into the east side of Columbia, it took down dozens more homes, ripped the tops of aged oaks and toppled some of them onto grave sites in the Woodlawn Cemetery, heavily damaged churches, a mobile home park, more businesses and a major garden center. The deadly tornado changed the landscaping of our town and did more structural damage than Hurricane Katrina, back in August 2005.
How does a community recover from such widespread destruction? Where do they begin? They begin with HOPE and FAITH in God and in their ability to work together to restore what has been taken. People from our community, state and beyond have banded together to help each other begin the process of recovery. I've witnessed some amazing scenes the last few days!!! It will take some time, but our tough little town will survive!
My husband and I saw the tornado from a distance as it spun its way northeast, missing our property. I'm relieved that we didn't take a hit. We lost a few things from the storage room we rented in town, but the things most important to me were spared. Still, my heart is heavy to see the scale of destruction in my hometown. Friends and relatives have lost their homes and/or businesses. The beautiful cemetery that holds my mother's grave, as well as other relatives, is hardly recognizable. It breaks my heart to know that there are 65 families who are now homeless. On the other hand, I'm touched by the way the community has come together as a whole at this time of need.
For those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please remember the people of our community...Thank you and God bless!