A miracle can weigh less than 3 pounds: the littlest Alabama tornado survivors

This is a story of miracles and heartbreak, joy and sadness. This is the story of the Weavers and the Weaver critters, who rode out one of the fierce Alabama tornadoes that touched down on April 27.

The Weavers lived in a pretty house in Alabama, a single-story home with enough room for a family of four, a dog, ten guinea pigs, ten rats, and a variety of critters who were lucky enough to be fostered by the Weavers while waiting for the right forever home.

Weaver Home

The Weaver's Alabama home, this past winter. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Marsha Weaver, a skilled craftswoman who dedicated her abilities to creating beautiful beds and hidey places for little critters, shared her sewing room with her guinea pigs and rats. Marsha sewed products for her shop, The Cozy Cavy, while the Weaver Pigs and the Weaver Ratties kept her company.

Marsha's Sewing Room

The Sewing Room and Little Critter Hub at the Weaver House. Look carefully - you can see guinea pigs in the cages, some pulling hay out of their haylofts. Marsha's sewing machines are in the background. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

There was almost no warning. The April 27 storm moved in to the Weaver neighborhood almost before it was reported. As the skies grew frighteningly dark and the rain pounded the roof, Marsha ushered her children and Shelby, the family dog, into the hallway. Her husband, Doug, skirted through the front door moments later. Before she could decide what to do about the littlest family members, the house began to shake. The house fell in, then pieces flew in the air. The Weavers felt the pull of the storm. Shelby, hovering off the floor, was anchored to her humans by her collar. It lasted for only moments; it lasted forever.

During a brief lull in the storm, they rose out of the wreckage and fled. Injured. Barefoot. Scared.

As reported in Friday’s post, Marsha, her daughter, and Shelby the dog suffered the greatest injuries. Marsha and her daughter were admitted to a nearby hospital. Shelby, whose face was severely injured by flying debris, endured four layers of stitches, administered by a vet working by flashlight.

Despite having their own injuries to tend to, the Weavers were heartsick over their littlest critters. Maybe, just maybe, some of them might have survived. Doug, the healthiest of the bunch, made his first search of the debris field that was once their home.

He found Emma, alive, hiding under a piece of Marsha’s fleece fabric.

Emma the guinea pig

Emma, the first guinea pig to be found alive after the tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Finding Emma alive brought the entire Weaver family hope. The members of the GuineaLynx community cheered. Thank God, we all said collectively. If there is one, there might be more. This sweet little sow who bossed the other girls around had beaten the odds.

When daylight broke, Doug got his first good look at the rubble that was once their home.

Weaver House After Tornado

The remains of the Weavers' Alabama home, after the tornado. Photo by Steve Weaver.

Pieces of their home and pieces of their lives were scattered all over the neighborhood. Marsha’s extensive collection of fabric hung from tree branches like the tattered flags.  He had found one pet alive. There might be more. He began to search.

By now, thousands of people, many of whom had never heard of the Weavers before, were following their story. Fingers crossed, prayers said, tears shed, well-wishers worried over the Weavers and their pets. The situation was made all the more agonizing as communication was delayed by spotty phone service and dying cell phone batteries.

The search continued as the Weavers and fellow rescuers sifting through the detritus.

More miracles.

Three more guinea pigs and three rats were found alive and relatively healthy, though scared and hungry. These little critters had taken shelter wherever they could find it, even in the branches and under the roots of fallen trees.

Holly, one of the newest Weaver Pigs, was so pleased to be found that she wheeked and wheeked hard enough to make her ears flap. Also found were the adorable but naughty little Allie-Belle, and Jasmine, a sweet little girl who found her way to the Weaver home through the Atlanta Metro Guinea Pig Rescue.

Holly, a guinea pig.

Holly, a guinea pig, was found alive after the April 27 tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.


Allie-Belle, a guinea pig, was found alive after the April 27 tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.


Jasmine, a guinea pig found alive after the April 27 tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Three of Marsha’s ratties, LuLu, Samantha, and Makayla, were also found, hungry and scared, but otherwise in good condition.

LuLu the rat

LuLu, a Weaver rat, was found alive after the tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Samantha the rat

Samantha, one of the Weaver rats, was found alive after the tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Makayla the rat

Makayla, one of the Weaver rats, was discovered alive after the tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Seven of the Weaver Pigs and Rats were healthy and accounted for, but the day was not without heartbreak. Hopkins, a senior at six years old, was critically injured. He was rushed to a vet, who humanely helped the poor old guinea pig earn his wings. Natasha, the Weavers’ nine-year-old granny pig, had also succumbed to the storm, as had seven-year-old Sherman and fun little Rose. Three rats – Annie, Devon, and Victoria – perished. The remains of two other pets – one guinea pig, one rat – could not be identified. One guinea pig and four rats were still missing.

Then another miracle: Wesley, an elderly three-year-old rat, was found, but traumatized and injured. He was not expected to make it through the night, but surprised everyone as he continued to fight for his life.

Wesley the rat

Wesley, a three-year-old rat, survived the storm. He is in critical condition. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

Marsha was released from the hospital and joined her husband in the careful search. Meanwhile, news of the Weavers’ tragedy rippled through the communities of guinea pig owners, Cozy Cavy customers, and numerous small animal rescue organizations. Contributions poured in through the Sponsor a Guinea Pig web site, reaching $8,000 Saturday morning. Jubilation over the miracles was tempered by grief for the losses. Yet, the Weavers’ vet was so hopeful, she joined the search for the remaining missing animals.

Saturday morning, another miracle was announced. Another rattie, Olivia, had been found, scared and thirsty, but healthy.

Olivia, another Weaver Rat, was discovered more than 48 hours after the tornado. Photo by Marsha Weaver.

As the Weavers sorted through the remnants of their home, the mailman came. He noted the missing mailbox, then the missing house, then hand-delivered the mail to the Weavers. Another miracle.

One guinea pig and two of the Weaver Rats were still unaccounted for. All five of the foster rats were also missing, with no signs of them or their cage.

Marsha’s daughter, whose shoulder was broken and lung was punctured, was released from the hospital. Another miracle.

Throughout the entire ordeal, the GuineaLynx community remained glued to their computers and phones and iPads. The very few text messages that could work their way through the spotty cellular coverage offered Marsha and her family everyone’s love and support. We were so happy she had so many little critters left to cuddle, and glad that she at least knew others were at peace. We cried for those lost, we cried for those still missing.

Deep down, we knew such tragedy could have happened to any of us. We cuddled our own critters extra tight.

Unfortunately, the Weavers’ story is not unique. Many, many people across the south, and especially in Alabama, were devastated by the tornadoes on April 27. Many pets are out there, injured and scared, looking for owners; many owners are out there, injured and scared, looking for pets. Many rescues and organizations are posting information about lost and found pets and ways to give or receive assistance through a special facebook page.

And while there wasn’t enough time for the Weavers to fully engage in an emergency plan, their story made the rest of us pet owners realize how important it is to have one. FEMA offers some basic ideas for how to develop one.

For the Weavers, the story is just beginning. And as I posted on Friday, despite the horrible loss, there is hope. There are amazing people in the world who will reach out and help others in need. And there are little miracles.

Special thanks to Marsha’s sister, Marie, who joined the GuineaLynx community to keep Marsha’s GL friends updated on the search and recovery process. This post would not have been possible without her.

Please note: information in this blog may be adjusted for accuracy as information becomes available.

36 thoughts on “A miracle can weigh less than 3 pounds: the littlest Alabama tornado survivors

  1. Beth

    Again, your writing has brought tears to my eyes, Diana. Your love and compassion shines through. I keep the Weavers and the rest of the suffering in my prayers.

  2. Margie Rick

    What a wonderful story. I’m so glad I got to read this. I’ve been one of those following this from a distance and this story helped fill out the saga more. I’m so very glad so many of their critters were found alive. Being an avid rat person I have to say GO WESLEY!!

  3. M. Fantasia

    My thoughts are with the Weaver family every waking moment. Thank you for sharing a most personal story with us all and keeping updates for everyone to read. Rainbow Bridge has some very special angels that are watching over a very special family.

  4. Melissa Kress

    Thank you for summing things up so nicely. Those following frantically have pieced most of this together, but how nice to be able to concisely share what is going on with others.

  5. Michelle

    This is beautifully written. Through your words the rest of us can better understand what everyone went through during the storm and the difficulties that they will be facing for quit some time. I think all of us are hugging our families a little harder and cuddling our pets a little closer. Thank you for keeping us all updated.

    I am praying that all the families are able to heal and find some peace and that all lost pets are somehow returned to their families.

  6. Mike L

    So sad about those pets that were lost, but considering the devastation, it is indeed miraculous that there were survivors.

  7. Fran

    Beautifully written, and I had the chills the whole time reading this. I am so sorry for the Weavers losses and the other residents losses, the losses of animals and losses of people.

  8. Sue

    I’ve been following this story for quite some time on some rat forums I’m on. I’m so glad for the little survivors but mourn for those that are lost and are at the Rainbow Bridge. I’m so sorry for the Weavers and everything that they’ve lost but hope that they have the strength to get through this.

  9. Kathy

    It’s really nice that you’re keeping everyone updated on the Weavers and their family. I’ve said prayers for them and their critters. I went through a fire in my home in November in which I lost one of my guinea pigs, so I can relate to what they’re going through. I’m glad people are helping.

  10. Kathy

    Thank you very much for all of the information you’ve made available to us. It’s wonderful how much support they have received through networking. I hope everything works out for them in time.

  11. Patti Riggert

    The first news I heard was that only one guinea pig had been found. I’m so happy that they found others and some of the rats alive, too! Rest in Peace to the little ones that passed but thank God for the ones that lived through that. And, thank God that the family and dog are all safe and sound! A house can be rebuilt but you never get over lives lost.

  12. Chris Smith

    I heard about the tragic news through Star’s Rat Rescue, and sent a donation to them to forward onto the Weaver family to help the surviving pets. May the ones that didn’t make it rest in peace 😦

  13. Ingrid

    tears are in my eyes …
    i am feeling with all of you !!
    all the best for these precious little pets, for all of them.
    many greetings from germany…

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  15. Elizabeth Loiselle

    The story brought tears of joy for the Weaver’s recovery,and for the animals found well, but tears of saddness for those who didn’t make it and the ones still missing. I pray that all the pets that are missing are found. Thank you for the update.

  16. Shelly Willis

    Thank you for this wonderful article about the Weaver family. Our GL member family is rejoicing and grieving along with everyone else.

  17. Diana Hockley

    I am so glad that at least some of the ratties and piggies were found alive and my heart aches for the others. Maybe yet there will be some miracles. I hope The Weavers can recover and re-build.
    Best wishes and many prayers from Australia,


  18. Becky

    Touching and beautifully written story. I loved the inclusion of the pictures and my heart breaks for the pigs and rats they lost. I made sure to snuggle my babies a little bit longer the day I found out about their disaster. My thoughts are constantly with them! Thank you for writing such a wonderful story about this amazing family!

  19. Sherin Dennis

    My prayers are with the entire Weaver family and all their little Critters. May God bless you and send you peace in these troubling times. You and all your sweet animals will be in my prayers. Stay stong.

    Sherin Dennis

  20. KittytheRatWhisperer

    I don’t know what I would do if something happened to my girls. I have a pair of 2-year-old ratties and a 1.5 year old rat. One of them is ailing, and I worry constantly. I couldn’t possibly imagine losing my home and not knowing where my babies were. My heart goes out to the family. I hope all of the MIA critters are found – even if they end up with another family – and as well as possible.

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