Escaping to Florida – literally…

The last week of April was a whirlwind for me, and I mean that in an almost explicitly literal way.

I headed to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida on Monday night after work to spend the week celebrating my friends Aaron and Amanda’s wedding. They rented out a very large beach house (sleeps 30 or so) so everyone could get together, catch up, have fun drink some beers, and become friends before the wedding on Friday.

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Tuesday night was probably one of the best nights I’ve had in quite some time, just sitting around on the deck telling ridiculous stories with Aaron, Amanda, Ryan, Michael, and Thomas, until sunrise. I think the general consensus was that night could be considered exercise – all of our abs were sore the next few days from laughing so hard for so long.

Wednesday, we rented a pontoon boat and a jet ski and spent the day out on a submerged sand bar in the middle of the bay. The sky was slightly overcast but the air was warm, so I spent most of my time standing waist-deep in the cool clear water on the sand bar chatting with everyone. At one point, Lisa and I decided we wanted to was/run the length of the entire sand bar. When we got back to the area where the pontoon boat was anchored, someone yelled to me “Hey Laura, what did you do to your arm!?”. It turns out that I got TARRED! That’s right, I picked up a glob of tar on my arm. Thanks, BP! It took so much scrubbing to get that dime-sized blob of oil or tar off my arm: scrubbing with sand and salt water for maybe 15 minutes, followed by soaking in the ocean for another hour or two, followed by scrubbing with dish soap for 10 minutes after we got back to the beach house. Getting tarred was something I never saw coming. I don’t think any of us saw any evidence at all of the oil spill other than the oil that ended up on my arm (of course it would happen to me, of all people).

Paths of the April 2011 Tornadoes in Alabama, from AL.com

Anyway, so when we got back to the beach house, those who didn’t join us on the pontoon were quick to inform me about the horrifying tornado that had torn through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama (among other states) that evening. I have never been more glad to be out of town! For those of you living under a rock (or simply living in other countries and not getting it on the news every hour like we are), here’s some summary information from The National Weather Service, as reported by by CNN.com in this article on May 4, 2011:

“The National Weather Service says 178 tornadoes were spawned by the April storms. When field surveys are completed, the number could be closer to 305.

“The April 27-28 outbreak caused 327 deaths, making it the third deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history, behind outbreaks in 1925 and 1932, with 747 deaths and 332 deaths respectively.

“Alabama was one of the hardest-hit states. At least 249 people were killed there, state officials said.”

Once I sent out texts and checked Twitter and Facebook to be sure that my friends were all okay, I tried to call a friend who lives in my apartment complex to see if I still had an apartment to return to on Sunday. Fortunately, the tornadoes had very nearly missed me. Literally 200 meters from my apartment is fairly well destroyed – 2ft diameter trees are laying on top of demolished roofs and completely smashed cars, power lines are laying on the ground across the roads. The homes a block away from me still don’t have power a week later, while I’ve had power since I got home and cable restored Monday night.

The #4 tornado path shown in the “Tracking the Tornadoes’ Paths” graphic (from this article at AL.com) goes directly over me. I’m so very glad I wasn’t in town when these storms came through. I would have been terrified. I live on the third floor of an apartment complex – anything stronger than the EF-3 that came through here would have absolutely been fatal to me. I think I said, unprompted, some version of “Hooray I still have an apartment!” at least 20 times that night and Thursday.

Friday was the wedding, and it was simple and perfect. Amanda could not have looked more beautiful and Aaron only almost cried once during his vows. The ceremony was short and sweet and the reception was too much fun. I’ll post some pictures later – since I don’t currently have a camera, I was dependent on others to take some pics!

Long story short: I’ve never been more happy to go to a wedding weekend nor had more fun meeting new people, nor had better timing for a fun getaway weekend.

Kara, Amanda and I at the wedding

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