Less than two years after tornadoes battered my home town, Gallatin, Tenn., narrowly missing our house, a wave of storms swept through Tennessee and again brought death and destruction to my neighbors. The twisters with their distinctive freight train roar passed farther from our house this time, as I watched TV and listened to weather radio from about midnight to 2 a.m today (Feb. 6).

They hit a community called Castalian Springs, named for a spring near Delphi in Greece. It’s a pleasant little area, populous enough to have its own post office but still a rural stretch more crossroads than village. It also had a historic stagecoach inn, Wynnewood, that many folks have spent years restoring.

I should say they had their own post office – the tornado crushed it, along with numerous homes, and also heavily damaged Wynnewood. At least 7 people died in that area, and police shut down State Route 25 that connects Gallatin to Trousdale County to search for more victims. Like the visitors to that ancient, ambiguous Oracle at Delphi, the folks in that community are searching for answers amid the debris.

The storms then moved east, striking Trousdale County and its main town, Hartsville, and then Macon County and its principal town, Lafayette (we pronounce that La-FAY-ette.). Lightning apparently touched off a huge fire at a natural gas pumping station in Macon County – I heard the glow could be seen in Nashville. Nobody knows yet how many people died or were injured in these areas, although there were estimates of as many as 20.

I’ve been to and through those areas, often for a previous client of Hammock Publishing, Sumner Regional Medical Center. They’re pretty and rural and inviting to folks who want to have big yards and safe places to raise kids; places that have been farmed in some cases for generations by the same families; small businesses such as lip-smacking meat-and-three restaurants. And, jarringly, the abandoned concrete carcass of a never-finished TVA nuclear power plant.

Having seen up close in April 2006 what tornadoes can do, I can tell you that pictures simply don’t convey the extent of the damage. To stand in a neighborhood that once held apparently solid homes and be surrounded by piles of rubble – often higher than the roofs of those houses – makes one feel very vulnerable, and at a loss as to where to start. I grieve for my neighbors and share their feelings of loss.