A Hillsboro family lost their home to the storm that raged in early morning of Tuesday, Nov. 6. The storm brought an EF-2 rated tornado to the lower border of Coffee County, near the Rutledge Hills area in Hillsboro.
Janice Gibson, her husband Lee and their 9-year-old daughter Maddi were in their trailer on Boyd Road the night of the storm. Gibson woke up around 12:30 p.m. when the storm became to escalate. Knowing that trailers weren’t built to withstand severe weather, Gibson urged her family to go next door to her mother-in-law’s brick-and-mortar home.
“I got my husband and my daughter up and told them ‘we need to go now,’” she recalled. They all got out of bed and made the short trip over to safety.
Gibson got the “take cover” text message at 1:32 a.m. and for the next 20 minutes, they hid in the bathroom and listened to the wind howl. When everything calmed down, the family looked outside to see if anything had been damaged.
“There was a tree uprooted, it had broken [my mother-in-law’s] flagpole,” Gibson recalled. “I looked over toward my house and, from the back, it looked fine. I thought, we’re good.”
She didn’t see the full extent of the damage until around 3:30 a.m.
“That’s when I noticed my trailer was messed up – when I drove in back in the morning after the rain had cleared,” she said.
Their kitchen and living room wall had been blown in, parts of their roof torn off and water damage was everywhere in their front rooms.
“I’ve got a huge hole in my kitchen” she said.
Half of her dishes were broken, her living room and kitchen furniture were unsalvageable due to the water damage and her home of 17 years was officially unlivable.
The family didn’t lose everything – their bedrooms were untouched and their entertainment room stayed dry. Their cats and dogs, which were in the trailer during the storm, survived without any injury and were all accounted for.
The tornado, which was rated an EF-2 by the National Weather Service, did not hit their home. The winds coming off it did most of the damage. An EF-2 rating is capable of producing winds between 111-135 mph. Gibson explained you can see the scar left by the tornado in the forest near her home.
“I’m glad; usually my husband is one of those, ‘let’s just stay and we’ll be fine,’” Gibson said, but she heard about the possibility of a tornado and she knew that staying may not be safest option.
“I’m glad we could come to my mother-in-law’s,” she added.
For now, the family is staying with her mother-in-law and it’s been tough on them and their daughter, will turn 10 on Nov. 12.
“It’s really affected [Maddi],” Gibson said. “Her nerves are very tore up. This is the home she’s been raised in.”
Gibson explained Maddi is worried about not getting a birthday, not going to be able to enjoy Christmas in her home. Her mother is adamant and will not let this ruin her 10th birthday though – she has plans to make it a good day for her.
“I’m trying to stay positive,” Gibson said.
Maddi’s school, Hillsboro Elementary, was notified as well and will be helping her during the day.
As for her parents, the shock didn’t set in until the Wednesday after the storm.
“It was hectic. That’s been my home for 17 years for me and my husband,” Gibson said.
“It really didn’t hit my until today – I can’t go to my own home,” she later added.
How you can help
The Gibson family is not in immediate need of clothing or shelter, but is looking to replace their home and furniture that was damaged during the storm. Not wanting to hinder anyone, they wrote letters to the Masonic Lodges in Hillsboro and Manchester and are in contact with the local humane society.
Gibson’s niece Brittany Potter set up a GoFundMe page to help the family purchase a new trailer. Gibson explained she has connections with someone who does repossessions and may be able to purchase something from them.
Potter decided to help her aunt, not only because a family member was in need, but because that trailer on Boyd Road had been her safe haven growing up. When she was 16, Potter’s family packed up and moved into Gibson’s trailer after feeling unsafe in their home.
“To me that home was my safe haven, it is the home where all my secrets of abuse were revealed in, because I wasn’t scared anymore. That home was the starting point of a recovery for me,” Potter said.
“That is why I made the GoFundMe page; it is her home of 17 years, but to me, that's what that house meant to me.”
The GoFundMe page can he found here: https://goo.gl/42HmRr.