Spending those eight months in a small rental house, Michael and DeAnn Angland brought their five children home last week just days after celebrating Christmas with family.
"I've always said 'There's no place like home.' And I think now we realize that's one of the most truthful sayings," DeAnn Angland said. "We've been very cramped for eight months. So it's been nice to get home and give everyone their space back. The kids, especially the older kids, were absolutely thrilled to be able to be back in their rooms -- to be back home. No matter what happens, it's always home."
Since April, a rental home, half the size of their own house, has been home to 17-year-old Victoria, 15-year-old Zachary, 9-year-old Lindsey, 7-year-old Brady, 1-year-old Sawyer and their parents. DeAnn Angland described the events of the fateful evening.
"It was just an ordinary night, we were at home with our children," she said, as she recalled watching the news and gathering items to take into the basement. After the storm escalated in intensity, hail began to fall before turning eerily quiet and noticeably warmer.
"At that point, we knew we needed to get everyone to the basement -- and we made it with about 30 seconds to spare. We could see the rafters kind of twisting and debris falling," DeAnn Angland said. "My husband laid on top of [three of the children], I laid on top of the other two children and just sat there and listened to horrible noises. It only lasted about 10 seconds, it was very quick and like everyone says it does sound like a freight train."
Emerging from the basement after the tornado passed, the Angland family tried to assess the damage. Although not a total loss, as many homes were, the damage was evident. Doors and windows were gone, limbs stuck through walls and much of the roof was missing.
"Nothing really prepares you for what you see. But considering the state of the homes just down the road at Crowe Springs, we're very fortunate," DeAnn Angland said. "With five children and our animals, we had a cat and dog with us as well, nobody even had a scratch -- we were very blessed."
The Anglands acted quickly to get their children out of the area as the home was no longer secure and the yard was strewn with debris but travel was impeded by trees covering nearby roads.
"We couldn't get our cars out of our garage, our driveway was covered with trees. Emergency vehicles couldn't even get down our road," DeAnn Angland said. "About four in the morning we finally got to Calhoun, which is where we stayed and came back the next morning. And nothing can prepare you for coming up on a community that you've lived in for eight years and seeing so much devastation -- but at the same time, so blessed that no lives were lost. It was unlike anything I have ever seen in person."
Upon their return, they found friends, neighbors and strangers lending a hand wherever needed.
"A dear friend of ours, her husband was out here that morning cutting the trees that were down so that we could get to our driveway. The churches brought food and people came out of their way to help. They will never know how much that means to somebody," DeAnn Angland said. "It's great to see that you can get that kind of support when there's a devastating occurrence.
"I've lived here all my life and sometimes you take for granted that Cartersville's not the small town it use to be but the same small-town people are still here."
One of those lending a hand was Shayne Ray, owner of All Around Roofing, Gutters and Construction. When the Anglands arrived the next morning, Ray was placing a tarp over the home where once there was a roof. Ray and DeAnn Angland knew each other from attending Cass High School together and Ray's company was hired to reconstruct the family home.
As Ray detailed, the house needed a lot of work with all but one room having to be gutted due to storm and water damage, but it was more than many tornado victims had to work with.
"It was all but 10 percent destroyed, it was a $250,000 project," Ray said. "There's other families that aren't even in their house. There's a house across the street here that's been leveled. So, they're very fortunate about getting back in their house this week."
The Anglands spent eight months away from home for a variety of reasons, but much of it was due to issues with insurance companies and banks. The severity of storms across the nation tied up insurance companies and over-worked claims adjusters.
"These super cells that went through and struck so much of the south, nobody could prepare for that," DeAnn Angland said. "Our adjusters were spread so thin across the south that it was hard to keep the process going and I have sympathy for them.
"They have their rules and guidelines and you have to understand but it doesn't make it easier when you're trying to get your family back home."
Sleeping in their own beds for the first time since the April storms, the Anglands moved into their home on Tuesday, Dec. 27, looking forward to ringing in the new year in their new home.