‘I thought I wasn’t going to make it’: Helena man shares moments before tornado


HELENA, Ala. (WIAT) — Neighborhoods throughout Central Alabama were wrecked by Thursday’s severe storms and tornadoes, including Helena.

Homes off Cunningham Drive and Lawley Street suffered major damage; roofs were torn off, power lines down, and debris everywhere. After neighbors surveyed the damage, all of them were thankful to be alive.

“Big time. Thank you, Jesus,” Survivor, Charles Lilly, said.

Lilly has lived off the corner of Lawley Street for over 20 years. He shares the moments he was at home when the storm hit.

“When I was standing near the window and looking out, I’d seen wind moving with debris,” Lilly said.

That’s when he ran for cover.

“And I ran to my bathroom. And by the time I got halfway there, I jumped into the shower,” Lilly said.

Lilly says all of this happened within seconds.

“By the time I figured out I couldn’t fit into my tub, it was over,” Lilly said.

Lilly said both the properties he owns on the street sustained damage from the storms.

“My home. My land. I have another home across the street from it, damaged both of them,” Lilly said.

The roof and sides of his garage were ripped apart and some of his vehicles were heavily damaged. But several remained untouched, including his Dodge Ram and black Mercedes. He says if his concrete truck hadn’t held part of the roof together, those vehicles could have been destroyed.

“And when the disaster hit the building, it fell onto the concrete truck and saved the Mercedes and the Dodge Ram,” Lilly said.

But in the moment, Lilly says he feared the worst.

“I was a goner. I thought I wasn’t going to make it,” Lilly said.

Which is why he is very thankful to be alive. He tells CBS 42 he does have insurance for his vehicles and property. The next step for him and his neighbors is picking up the pieces one at time.

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