DeArmans share remarkable survival story with Gov. Ivey

By WILLIAM MARLOW | Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY — Gov. Kay Ivey surveyed tornado damage throughout several counties Monday, March 29, with Shelby County as her final destination, which occurred after two EF3 tornadoes swept through the area on March 25.

During Ivey’s visit, she met with residents from Eagle Point, a neighborhood just off Alabama 119 and U.S. 280 in north Shelby County, which was severely damaged by an EF3 tornado according the National Weather Service.

The storm damaged or destroyed homes in Eagle Point, but no fatalities were reported. However, the tornado’s winds ripped off roofs and caused homes to collapse. Resident’s belongings were also scattered throughout yards and across several streets.

Ivey shared her reactions to Thursday’s destruction on her walk through of the neighborhood.

“In Calhoun at Ohatchee, three people in the same family lost their lives, and it’s been downhill from there. The destruction is just rampant, but we have been through this before: March 17, March 25 and then 10 years ago when we had the April 2011 storms,” Ivey said.

The governor said she was relieved that only five fatalities were reported during last week’s tornadoes, but said even losing one life is devastating.

“That’s still five too many,” she said.

However, Ivey said she had been inspired by Eagle Point’s residents as well as Alabamians across the state who have united during this tragedy to help one another.

“That’s the spirt of Alabama folks. Resilience. Neighbors helping neighbors,” Ivey said. “That is what we Alabamians are all about.”

Ivey spent the afternoon meeting with Eagle Point residents, including Mary Rose and Larry DeArman. Ivey toured their collapsed home and listened as they recounted their experience during the storm.

On Thursday, the couple were alerted of a tornado warning for Shelby County and sheltered in their basement. As they sat in their basement, they monitored the storms on their radio.

As DeArman listened, she heard that the storm had passed her area. Believing the storm was gone, she returned upstairs. Her husband, however, remained in the basement and watched the weather from a window. While Mary was upstairs, her husband saw the tornado approaching and yelled for her to return to the basement.

As the tornado raged outside, they ran into the basement closet. Just as they shut the door, the wind started roaring and the house began shaking.

“I knew the house had come off the foundation and I said ‘Dear God, please make it stop,’” DeArman said.

As the shaking subsided, they found themselves trapped under debris and rubble. DeArman tried calling 911, but could not reach an operator. She managed to finally reach her sister and told her they were trapped and to call an ambulance.

“We could hear our neighbors hollering to us. One set of neighbors pulled the debris off me, and I had to climb up two ladders to get from underneath the basement,” she said.

Her neighbors then began pulling her husband out of the debris, who had a nail stuck in his arm. DeArman only had a few scratches.

“Those were the only the injuries we had, but it was by the grace of God that we were able to survive. It’s God’s doing because if it hadn’t been for Him, the whole house would have collapsed.”

Moe Hyatt, owner of Brookfield Construction, built several homes in Eagle Point and spent Monday surveying the damage as well as helping clean debris.

He said he had never seen destruction like that before, even as a volunteer in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in the aftermath of the April 2011 tornadoes. During those storms, he delivered food and clothing to tornado survivors and traveled to Eagle Point Monday to help his community once again.

“Today is the first time in 40 years that I witnessed what a tornado can really do,” he said. “I don’t want to leave this place because there is so much hurt here today, but houses can be rebuilt. People cannot be replaced.”