03/09/05 — Storm leaves disrupted lives, property damage

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Storm leaves disrupted lives, property damage

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 9, 2005 1:52 PM

Clear, sunny skies greeted Wayne County residents this morning, but trees freshly splintered and scattered debris from damaged buildings showed that Tuesday had been different.

Violently different. The line of thunderstorms that moved eastward across the county Tuesday had disrupted lives and brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of destruction.

It might have been millions. Estimates of the total were not available, but a drive around the county showed homes with wind damage, buildings and automobiles ruined by falling trees, farm buildings destroyed -- barns from antiquity as well as modern, expensive hog and poultry houses.

Three people were reported to have been injured, but none seriously. And although utility poles were broken, no protracted blackouts were reported.

The damage was not confined to a single area but was spread from Fremont and Eureka in the north, through Mount Olive, the Seven Springs area and into Duplin County in the south.

Wayne's emergency services manager, Blair Tyndall, said that while there were reports of tornado-like winds, the National Weather Service had classified the storm as having straight-line wind.

Whatever it was, it sometimes exceeded 60 mph.

A mobile home was overturned on Antioch Road. A resident was left dangling, partly inside and partly outside, Tyndall said. The unidentified man was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Tyndall said his brother, Brent Tyndall, was returning home and pulled the man to safety.

Another mobile home was overturned on Piedmont Airlines Road. Goldsboro firefighters responded and conducted a salvage operation.

Emergency Services received 10 reports of property damage. Nineteen trees and 20 power lines were reported down.

The 911 center dispatched 50 calls for service during the height of the storm. Eighteen were for the fire service, 11 for rescue and 21 for law enforcement.

On Zion Church Road, Willie and Joyce Johnson waited for an insurance agent to arrive Tuesday afternoon and estimate damage to their house. They could feel the house shake during the worst of it.

"You know how an elevator used to feel when it stopped? That's how it felt. It was so fast," said Mrs. Johnson. "I never heard anything like it."

The wind broke two storm windows in the family room. Tree limbs five inches in diameter lay scattered on the carport just outside the door. The wind also took shingles off their brick home, and the roof flew off the old frame homestead next door.

"Tin was flying everywhere around here," said Johnson. "It didn't last a minute, I know, before it was gone. The roof was flying across the grape vine ...."

Farther down Zion Church Road a vacant mobile home lay on its side at the intersection of Zion and Atlas Price Road. All that was left was the flooring system. Across Atlas Price Road the roofs were off several of Glen Lupton's vacant chicken houses. Insulation dotted the field between the old chicken houses and Atlas Price Road.

Lupton was around the corner with some utility men getting the electricity back on at his house.

"We did fine," said Lupton, who expected to have power back on in about 15 minutes.

Carolyn Price told her husband, Atlas, she heard the roar that morning and hurried to the bathroom. No damage occurred at the Price home, but a door at the nearby Seven Springs Restaurant was broken. The lights went off for a few minutes, said restaurant owner Ola Mae Adams.

Atlas Price said some cedar trees on his farm off Zion Church Road had the tops twisted off about halfway up.

Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said the worst damage in Mount Olive appeared to be at the college, which lost part of a roof on the men's dorm. Part of the roof at AK Motors blew off and landed in the middle of Breazeale Avenue.

The winds knocked over a couple of trees and twisted off the tops of some trees. Some power lines were down, and Ballree said he's amazed the town didn't lose power.

A tree fell onto a house at College Circle. A carport collapsed on Ann Street, around the corner from a Wells Street house that barely missed being destroyed by a tree that fell beside it.

Public Works Director Glen Holland had city workers on Wells Street cutting the massive tree into pieces. At Best Used Cars a tree was lying across some autos. A tree lay across some cars on Worthington Street, too.

"We're lucky more people weren't hurt," said Holland, who added nobody in Mount Olive was injured.

Holland said he hoped to have all the debris cleaned up in town by 5 p.m. today.

A historic Wayne County home and Wayne Country Day School were among the buildings damaged.

In addition to severe roof damage at Wayne Country Day School, Headmaster Eddie Radford said several rooms were flooded. "There's a lot of water damage to books and computers, and teachers' personal equipment and supplies. Of course there's carpet and tiles that are drenched," he said.

As to a damage estimate, Radford said, "We won't know for a while. We've probably got a lot of damage that we don't know about right now because of the contents of the building."

The school is closed to students until Monday, Radford said. Teachers were to meet this afternoon.

"We're hoping that teachers will be able to get back to their rooms tomorrow. We've got people out here so we can try to get back to school as soon as we can."

Neighbors and family members of Gerald and Deborah Howell pitched in to clean up after a tornado tore through their historic property on N.C. 111.

Strong winds destroyed three barns on the Howell's land across the street. They then ripped apart the front porch of the home before taking off an awning.

It was a tornado but it didn't touch the ground, said Dana Lancaster, the couple's daughter, "It just skimmed the trees."

The house was built in the 1840s, Ms. Lancaster said, and had been used as a hospital during the Civil War.

Ms. Lancaster herself grew up in the home, and said that her father was born and reared there.

"I'm just glad nobody got hurt," Ms. Lancaster said. "It's a material object. It can be replaced."

She said the family was remodeling the home, and that project would continue.

A turkey house was damaged in Pricetown, and other major damage was reported on Paul Hare Road in Grantham, Tyndall said.

Northeastern Wayne County was without power for about an hour after a pole was snapped on Wayne Memorial Drive. Saulston and U.S. 13 North were among the affected areas.

When the weather deteriorated at about 10:25 a.m., Wayne County officials contacted the National Weather Service. A tornado warning was issued for the county until 11 a.m. The NWS said a weak rotation was noted and was moving northeast across the county. Sleet and hail was forecast.

During the storm, Mel Powers, the assistant Emergency Services coordinator, said parts of the county had dime-sized hail, scattered rain and gusty winds.

Powers said a sheriff's deputy reported a tornado in the southern part of the county. Courthouse employees were moved to the first floor. Powers said the school system was briefed. Within less than 30 minutes the storm had left the county.

Bonnie Edwards, Jack Stephens and Turner Walston contributed to this story.