“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.” — Psalm 46: 1-3
My grandparents were once interviewed by the Florida local news Oct. 11, 1990 during Tropical Storm Marco, the only tropical cyclone to to make landfall in the Atlantic hurricane season. I still have the DVD of the news coverage that shows my grandma with her blue umbrella and my grandpa telling a “Wizard of Oz”- type scenario, his camera strap visible around his neck. The tornado spun off from the tropical storm, leaving heavy damage throughout much of their allotment at Cedar Lake Estates in Crystal River as it moved along both sides of U.S. 19 south of Seven Rivers Community Hospital. The WTVT 13 Tampa Bay reporter Kerry Sanders said clocks stopped at 2:34 p.m. when power went out as the tornado hit.
“It was really blowing hard all at once,” my grandpa told Sanders. “It seemed to be calm before, hardly any wind, and then all at once you could hear it coming, you know. Like a real wind storm.” Grandpa said he looked outside and could see the wind pick up and the trees and debris “started flying, and I got scared.”
My grandparents braced for the impact in an interior room. Neighbor David Milton told Sanders that he heard what “sounded like a big locomotive coming through the woods.” He’d had his windows shut, and said he felt “a pressure on my head and immediately knew what it was,” ran and opened windows, but “still felt like my roof was coming off.”
The tornado tore through Cedar Lake Estates with deafening force, my grandma said. The impact shattered windows in their family room. Two pine trees in back were uprooted and thrown across the roof of the house. In minutes, Cedar Lake Estates became impassable. The damage missed the interior structure of the house by a few feet. They were safe; no one in the area was injured.
After the storm passed, my grandparents walked in front of the house. Grandma noticed the big oak tree twisted off its enormous trunk. A total of eight months would go by before they saw a complete restoration of their home and land, but they were so happy because the city saw to the clean-up and the hauling away of timber. The rest of the damage was covered by home-owner’s insurance. (For more information from the Channel 13 broadcast, see the video footage on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xcJah0AB1zc.)
The “goosebumps” part of this story though is that my grandma had prayed for more light to come into her living room the week before. She said she told God she wished for the removal of certain trees, the huge oak, some pine trees, but they couldn’t afford it. She dedicated her home again to God and left her request, tucking the thought away. She said it was “an unusual answer to prayer I’d say” when she wrote me.
Assessing the damage once again as I reviewed the news footage to write this story, I was reminded how God protected my grandparents. The fact that no one was injured or killed as a result of damage was no doubt what brought out the news media. God became their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I still love God’s answer to grandma’s request for light to shine into a once darkened room of their Florida home.
Grandma’s stories inspired me to seek God at all times and to leave the results to Him. He really does care about those seemingly insignificant requests, the ones we don’t think are worthy of His attention. Grandma prayed through everything and kept a prayer journal to remember all that God had brought her through. A lover of poem, she said this story in particular fell under “his mysterious ways” from the William Cowper poem.