AAA Member Michelle Reed had been keeping an eye on the weather reports throughout the evening of Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020. By bedtime, however, it looked like the severe weather was over for the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area, so Reed, with her dog, Macy, called it a day.

She was abruptly awakened at 11:20 p.m. by a text alert on her phone. Years earlier, Reed had used the AAA Mobile app to enroll in AAA weather alerts because she had a long commute and wanted to stay abreast of weather conditions. She had received texts earlier in the evening about severe weather, but this time the alert was for a tornado warning. Having grown up in the Midwest and being a veteran of school tornado drills, she knew that a warning was serious—a tornado had been sighted.

“I flipped the TV on as I was throwing on some shoes, and the local news was just then getting the alert—telling everyone to take cover as the tornado would be on us at 11:25,” Reed says. She immediately realized she couldn’t stay where she was in her second-story condo.

“I grabbed my dog and ran through the house down to the garage and got down in the back floorboard of my car,” Reed says. Less than a minute later, the tornado brushed her home. She heard the garage door rattling and felt the pressure from the twister in her head and ears. Unhurt but frightened, she stayed in her car for another 10 to 15 minutes—until she heard neighbors beating on her door to see if she was OK.

After spending the rest of the night in a hotel, she returned home the next morning to find shingles torn from her roof, broken windows and water damage. “There were shards of glass from a blown-out window in the bed where Macy and I had been sleeping. If we hadn’t gotten the alert when we did, I don’t know what might have happened to us.”

Reed was fortunate: She was on the edge of the tornado’s path. But other areas a half-mile away were devastated, and community residents complained about the lack of warning. Reed’s neighbors had been unaware of the danger until moments before the tornado struck.

“I am very thankful I had the AAA weather text alerts,” Reed says. “I have told everybody that that is the only alert we had, and if they don’t have it, they need it.”

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This story was featured in the
March/April/
May 2021
issue of AAALiving Magazine

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