SMITHS STATION, Ala.— Kim Serda didn’t think she would make it out alive.
As she took cover in a bedroom closet with her two dogs, Serda could feel the pressure building up around her.
Suddenly, Serda said she heard the back window of the room blow out. Then, the attic access door in the closet blew off causing Serda’s entire body to be lifted and nearly sucked out.
“I thought I was gone,” said Serda, as she sat at her kitchen table, just a few steps away from the tree that had fallen through the ceiling of her living room.
The Serdas are among 24 families in Smiths Station, Ala. left homeless after the deadly tornado that swept through Lee County on Sunday.
The twister is being blamed for at least 23 deaths
On Monday, residents near Lee County Road 294 in Smiths Station were outside assessing the damage as contractors cleaned up debris.
Yards were littered with tree branches, roof shingles, vinyl siding from homes and glass bottles. Dozens of trees were uprooted, including one that smashed a mobile home.
The nearby West Smiths Station Elementary School was also damaged. Parts of the school’s roof had blown into a neighbor’s yard and the playground was mostly destroyed.
Volunteers were organizing clean-up efforts Monday for this small, rural and tight-nit community.
The Serdas said their home is a complete loss and they will have to rebuild.
“As long as we are safe, that’s all that really matters,” said Roberto Serda, who was hit with a piece of a storm door as he tried to grab the couple’s third dog during the storm. “We didn’t have any damage to us, it was just material things.”
Some residents didn’t suffer as much property damage but said Monday they were still shaken up.
Ferson Luke, who lives next door to the Serdas, said he was in the kitchen with his granddaughter Sunday when he heard a loud noise that sounded like a train. He looked outside and saw power lines falling and trees blowing.
“It happened so fast I didn’t have time to take cover,” Luke said. “I wasn’t scared for my property, I was scared for my life.”
Luke said he feels lucky — all he needs is a new roof and the debris in his yard picked up.
Earl Washington, who lives across from West Smiths Station Elementary, was raking up branches in his yard Monday.
Though Washington had a large uprooted tree on his property, he planned to spend his evening helping others who were hit harder.
“When I saw this I was like ‘wow,’” said Luke. “But when I went over behind the school, my heart dropped. They need help over there.”