Erin Napier is opening up about a scary memory she shared with her family after a tornado struck their town of Laurel, Mississippi.
While discussing her new book, Heirloom Rooms on Southern Living’s Biscuits and Jam podcast, Erin, 38, revealed what it was like to have to take cover from the natural disaster with her husband Ben, 40, and their daughter Helen, 5. Their other daughter Mae, 2, was not born yet.
On what started out as a normal night in December, one week before Christmas, the Home Town designer was getting ready to have Ben’s younger brother and his wife over for dinner, when she heard an alarm sound.
“Helen was almost two, and the tornado siren started going off. We knew bad weather was coming,” Erin says. “I said we’ll go get in the closet under the stairs, and as soon as we got in and closed the door we could feel the house move. It felt alive in a way that really scared me.”
While she remembers hearing the house “creak and pop,” she adds that it also felt “sturdy” against the wind. “It felt like, okay it’s gonna do its job, it’s gonna protect us, it’s gonna shelter us. We could hear glass breaking but we knew that the house was holding steady.”
Once it was safe to come out, Erin says her family “ran in” to the other rooms to see the damage.
“We didn’t have power and the front windows in our living room had been busted out by debris,” she recalls. “The Christmas tree was a mess. The ornaments — a lot of them got broken — and Helen was like, ‘What happened?’ She wasn’t exactly scared but she knew something serious had happened.”
While the whole experience was “scary” and a “close call,” she says that it was especially heartbreaking to see the impact that the tornado had on her hometown.
“It was sad to see this historic neighborhood with so many old houses losing their chimneys, but it could have been worse,” Erin adds.
The HGTV star goes into more detail on the memory in the “Living Room” chapter of Heirloom Rooms, her third book that was released earlier in October. The personal collection of essays and photographs tells the meaningful story behind her beloved family home.
Following the tornado, in 2020, Erin and Ben also worked to restore some of the homes that were damaged on season 4 of Home Town. They showed viewers the deadly destruction that the tornado caused in the season premiere, and in the season finale, they worked to rebuild a home they had previously renovated before the storm.