Community Stories

The Day The Tornado Didn’t Win

On November 30, an F3 tornado slammed into Flint Ridge Farm, where we keep our horse. The winds ripped the metal roofs off all the barns and tossed them across the paddocks, trees uprooted and snapped off, debris took down fences, the smaller barns—with horses in them—were half destroyed, and the large indoor arena was completely flattened. Incredibly, only three horses of the 35 horses who are kept there were injured—mine was one of them—and all are recovering.

The interior of the main barn was pretty much intact, but the roof was gone, and all the insulation and lining were hanging down. Debris filled the middle aisle.

Incredibly, the horses’ stalls had very little debris in them, but it was not safe to keep them in there at all. The green barn looked like it had just lost its roof at first, but when you looked at it from the other side, you could see that it was mostly gone. Only the front wall, bare skeleton of the roof and the stalls remained. It looked like the set of a movie, but with less support! The pony barn, which was built against the indoor arena, still had the side walls standing, but that’s about it.

Unbelievably, one horse was found still standing in this little shelter, surrounded by debris, but unscratched.

When I drove into the farm, I could not believe what I was seeing—or hearing. It was so quiet, except for the sound of metal scraping against other metal with the breeze. The horses were so calm, it was a bit eerie. As I located my horse and talked with the stable owner, other horse boarders began arriving; then our friends and family came. Then, people who had just heard about the damage through social media began arriving.

Help From All Over

One of the Prepare and Respond (PAR) trailers showed up, and by lunch time, the farm was filled with people who came to help. North Alabama Equine Hospital arrived very early to assess the horses and stitch up the injured. They transported two horses to their facility as there was literally no place to keep them at the farm.

Fences were down in all pastures, so a group of people, husbands of horse owners—God bless them, patched up one large pasture fence and then went through every inch of that pasture picking up metal and sheet rock and roofing tiles and chunks of wood, many with nails sticking out. In another pasture, a couple of other people, probably more husbands or just friends of boarders, cut out a portion of one fence and installed a gate that was literally laying around from another pasture. So, now we had two pastures. Volunteers cleared a third pasture of debris so we could take all the horses out of the stalls and turn them out.

Horse people from all around town offered their barns as refuge for Flint Ridge Farm horses while the barns were put back into service. We took our horse to a lovely home not far away for a few days. These people opened their barns and facilities to us all, and that was beyond generous.

Insurance will not cover all the repair and restoration, so almost immediately, a GoFundMe account was set up. A local horse group, Tennessee Valley Dressage and Combined Training Association organized a fundraiser and dinner to help out. I have a studio at Lowe Mill and have organized fundraiser painting parties in the studio, with all profits going to Flint Ridge Farm. Several horse organizations have helped spread the word with social media, as well.

This farm has been home to hundreds of horses over the last 40 years, and so many riders took their first lessons here—my daughter included. Diana Rose, who owns Flint Ridge Farm, and her daughter Heidi are loved and respected in the horse community, and it shows. Mr. Rose was a veteran who fought in the Pacific during WWII, and he and his wife built this farm together. His birthday was November 29, the day before the tornado.

Flint Ridge Farm will never look exactly the same as it did the day before the tornado. Even after the roofs are repaired, the buildings and sheds replaced, and the mountains of debris are removed, the trees that were snapped off will always serve as a reminder of what happened. I hope, when we remember the loss, that we remember the compassion so abundant during this difficult time. It seems as though the worse situations in life also have the capacity to bring out the best in people.

Funny how that works.

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Monica Yother

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