One year later
A catastrophic storm ripped through northern Alabama, April 27, 2011, killing more than 200 people around the state. Pictured above is the damage to Sue Tillery's home. She and her family all survived unharmed.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (April 27, 2012) -- One year ago today, a series of tornadoes traveled through the Tennessee Valley, leveling homes, business and killing more than 200 people around the state.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command was not immune to this tragedy. Members of the staff suffered losses; one of them was Sue Tillery, congressional liaison for AMC.

She survived the storm unharmed with her sister, Mary, and her three dogs: Cody, Cricket and Skeeter, and agreed to be interviewed to warn her fellow AMC family about the importance of remaining weather aware.

One year later, a fresh start has risen from the rubble of her Athens home.

After the storm, the Tillery's debated staying in Alabama altogether, with questions like, "Is this something we could possibly go through again," and, "Would we want to go through it again?" reflected Tillery.

"I felt very insecure when that [the storm] happened. That was the closest I've come to death in my life. I've never been in a car accident, nothing and to know that it was that close. It was just very difficult," she said. "I felt like we lost everything we accrued over 30 years of life and there are some things that still bother me that we lost but they are just things."

In the end, rebuilding their home and life in Huntsville, Ala., won out.

"We came here with the intent to retire and make this our home," said Tillery. "So we started looking for homes. We found a house that we fell in love with. It's in a totally different area. Actually, we like it a lot better than the one that we lost. I think it all worked out real well."

There are a few lessons Tillery wanted to share. For example: consider adding replacement costs to your homeowners insurance.

Adding replacement costs to your current Homeowner's Insurance allows you to replace items lost due to an unfortunate event at current market value.

The devil is the details, Tillery explains how making small changes to your emergency plan can make all the difference during a weather emergency.

"I recommend that if you don't have a car charger, get one, that may be your only form of communication especially if you are trapped somewhere," said Tillery. "I purchased a solar powered weather radio. It's a radio with a weather band and it has a USB plug that can plug into my blackberry or phone."

Lastly, ensure you have a 'go-to' bag for the official documents that are difficult to replace, such as passports, birth certificates, etc.

In March, Huntsville got a small taste of tornado activity, but nothing like last year's storms.

"I was better equipped, but it was still scary. I can't say we are really back to normal yet," she said. "I thank God it worked out in my favor in some ways."

Tillery may have lost possessions, but she didn't lose any family.

"Watching some of these family members that lost a brother, sister, mother, and children, they are raising their niece because there is nobody left in the family. That is very, very hard to watch," she continued. "You've got to protect yourself."

Update your contact information in the headquarters AMC's Emergency Notification System. Simply right click the ENS icon in your toolbar. This system is designed to notify all AMC personnel in the event of an emergency.

Also register with the Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, which standardizes a method for the Army to account, manage, and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected in a catastrophic event. Update your information at https://adpaas.army.mil.

Page last updated Tue May 1st, 2012 at 08:16