The Scary Natural Disaster That Erin Napier & Her Family Lived Through

If you've ever watched "Home Town," then you know hosts Ben and Erin Napier call Laurel, Mississippi home. The sleepy southern community, located two hours from the Gulf of Mexico, is just far enough from the shore that it doesn't take the brunt of hurricanes, but it has suffered a time or two from storms and intense weather. However, it wasn't a tropical cyclone that deeply affected Laurel's residents (including the Napiers) in 2019 — it was a tornado.

"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," Erin Napier recalled of the natural disaster on Southern Living's "Biscuits and Jam" podcast. At the time, she and her husband, Ben Napier, had just one daughter, Helen, who was not yet two years old. The threat of stormy weather is enough to strike fear in the heart of any parent, but Erin revealed that when they heard the siren, they knew a tornado was no longer just a possibility; it had become very real.

All three Napiers took cover in one of the home's closets. Situated under a staircase, they figured it would be more protected from the wind and debris. Despite a few tense moments when the house groaned against the storm, Erin said, "I felt like, okay it's gonna do its job, it's gonna protect us," continuing, "We could hear glass breaking but we knew that the house was holding steady."

The Napier home suffered some damage

At the time of the storm, which was eventually rated an EF-3, the Napiers were in full holiday mode. The countdown to Christmas was on, and a destructive storm wasn't on anyone's wish list. Erin Napier admitted on the podcast, "The Christmas tree was a mess. The ornaments — a lot of them got broken — and Helen was like, 'What happened?'" The mess resulted from flying objects that had been picked up by the tornado, taking out their front windows.

She and her co-host husband, Ben Napier, were preparing to welcome holiday guests to their home when the sirens started blaring. In 2019, it was likely their gorgeous 1925 home, built in the Craftsman style, to which they would've invited family. However, like many homes in the southern part of the United States, it probably didn't have a basement. Unfavorable foundations like soggy soil make basements impractical for the area. Unfortunately, when inclement weather strikes, homeowners can be left scrambling to find a sturdy location.

Thankfully, the Napiers and many of their neighbors weathered the tornado unscathed. Historic downtown Laurel, Mississippi, was another story, though. The "Home Town" star remembers "many old houses losing their chimneys." The town's local paper, The Laurel Leader Call, said that two businesses did not survive the storm, and others suffered irreparable damage that resulted in them being torn down.

Community clean-up became their top priority

Erin and Ben Napier deeply love their friendly Laurel, Mississippi community. So when the tornado affected many businesses, homes, and residents, they weren't about to just stand by and watch the clean-up efforts. The couple discovered that the storm devastated one of the homes they had previously worked on for Richard T. Jones and his wife. It was even more crushing for everyone involved because the Joneses had planned to rent it to another Laurel community member, Gary, who was having trouble securing a place to live. Erin stated, "This is the last thing this neighborhood needed," as many of the street's homes, though historic, had fallen into disrepair over the years (via People).

So, the Napiers invested their own time while presumably receiving financial support from the Joneses to repair the house. They detailed their efforts in Season 4, Episode 17, of their HGTV show, "Home Town." "We can fix this, and Gary will have a home to come back to very soon," Ben Napier assured the Joneses, Laurel residents, and fans.

The historic home experts also urged their neighbors to do the same for one another. In an Instagram post, Erin wrote, "Keep Louisiana and Mississippi in your prayers, grab a chainsaw and help your neighbors in need." While damage from the storm was eventually repaired and debris cleaned up, the way in which the community rallied around each other afterward made a lasting impression.