(Mobile, Ala.) Johnny Martin, a shipyard worker at Ingalls in Pascagoula, got the first call from his wife before daylight yesterday.
The window was broken and rain was getting in the house, she said.
What she didn't tell him, and probably didn't know, was that a tornado was bearing down on their house.
"So I told her, just get up and put something over the window," he recalled. "So I hung up and three minutes later she called back crying and screaming and hollering and said, 'Johnny, the roof done blown off the house. ' "
She had every right to be terrified.
The tornado that tore through Mobile Thursday morning lifted the roof from the front of their rental house, then drove a beam right through a part where Johnny's wife was sleeping below.
"It probably would have killed her," he said, somberly.
The Martins have called this house on Union Avenue home for more than 13 years.
The tornado has forced them out just days before their grandchildren would have been stopping by for Christmas.
"And I had their toys and all that in the house because I usually get them something for Christmas," said Johnny. "Where it is now, I don't know."
The Christmas tree's gone, too.
Johnny has no idea where or how, but he's stored everything else he could salvage in a portable storage unit.
But to find a reason to be thankful, he need only look next door, where a couple and their five children managed to ride out the storm without serious injury.
Johnny recalled talking to the father of the family after the storm.
"And he told me when he opened his eyes up, the roof was blowing off his house!"
So this will be a difficult Christmas for Johnny and some of his neighbors.
No roof, no presents, no decorations to speak of.
And so close to Christmas.
But no deaths and no serious injuries.
At least they're still here to celebrate what's left.
"It looked nice," he said, glancing at the broken ornaments. "It looked real nice around here."