11/17/08 — Residents begin the process of rebuilding

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Residents begin the process of rebuilding

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 17, 2008 1:46 PM


Tim and Doris Whitlock go through their belongings at their home on Scott Road in Kenly while awaiting the arrival of an insurance appraiser. The Whitlocks' roof was peeled off and windows blown out by the Saturday morning F-2 tornado.


Danny, left, Mickey and Frankie Peacock look at a pecan tree that was uprooted by the tornado at their mother's house. Her dog was chained to the tree, but suffered only minor injuries.

KENLY -- Jerry Peacock was asleep in the mobile home on N.C. 222 he shares with his elderly mother when he was awaken early Saturday morning by a roaring wind and the sound of cracking and breaking trees followed by the even more ominous sound of the mobile home's metal being struck.

Peacock dove through the bedroom door and into the hallway as debris crashed through his bedroom ceiling. Other than a cut on his hand, Peacock and his mother escaped injury. His mother had been asleep in the bedroom at the other end of the mobile home that was not damaged.

The house was among many damaged or destroyed by a tornado that tracked through Johnston and Wilson counties, claiming the lives of a woman and 10-year-old boy in Wilson County.

Peacock's brothers Frankie, Mickey and Danny Peacock, all of whom live in the Kenly community, shared his story this morning as they walked around the home destroyed by Saturday's deadly storm.

They marveled not only that their brother and mother had escaped the devastation, but over the way people had shown up to help in the storm's aftermath.

"There were a bunch of people, maybe 50 or so, here yesterday cutting up the trees and cleaning up," Danny Peacock said. "I haven't ever seen so many people, many of whom were strangers.

"I don't know what we would do without people volunteering like that."

He said people used heavy equipment to haul debris and to collect items that the storm had blown into the woods behind the house.

It wasn't the first time the family has been touched by disaster. The home damaged Saturday was actually a replacement for one that was damaged by Hurricane Fran several years ago.

In front of the house was a recently completed wheelchair ramp that was not damaged.

Danny Peacock said he received a call about 4 a.m. Saturday that his mother's trailer had been blown across a nearby field. He said he was so shaken by the call it took a minute for it to sink in.

"I jumped in my truck but I couldn't get through because the road was blocked," he said.

He was able to find out that his brother and mother had been transported by a rescue unit to a local hospital. Later they joined other local residents who were taken to the Kenly Baptist Church.

Their mother is staying with relatives in Four Oaks while Jerry Peacock is at a local motel.

"I heard the wind at my house and heard the tornado alert on my radio," Frankie Peacock said. "I was laying in the bed listening to the tree and thinking about my mama and people who live in trailers.

Large uprooted trees were strewn about the yard including one where a family dog had been tied to.

"The dog was still hooked to the tree," Frankie Peacock said. "I don't know how he managed to handg on."

He added that he found the dog lying in a depression left when the tree feel. Other than some bruising on his hind legs the dog was uninjured, he said.

Had the animal not been tied to tree it probably would have been hurled through the woods and killed, the brothers said.

Danny Peacock said he had walked through the woods behind the house and seen a "lot of stuff strewed about."

They brothers say they are hopeful that the government will help their mother rebuild.

Just across the woods, on Scott Road, a Christmas toy played music as Tim and Doris Whitlock worked to salvage items from their destroyed home.

As they waited for their insurance adjuster to arrive, both said they were lucky.

Like their neighbors, the Whitlocks were asleep when the storm struck.

Whitlock said he heard something hitting the house and at first though someone was tried to break into their home. He said he had not seen anything on the TV the night before about such storms.

The couple said they had heard the "freight train" roar often associated with tornadoes several years ago when some sort of storm had passed over their home.

"It (this one) was horrible," she said. "It was much worse. It was roaring. It was the scariest thing I have ever been through," Mrs. Whitlock said."

The storm completely ripped the roof from the house and the rain poured in.

Whitlock got a flashlight and after telling his wife to remain on the floor rushed outside to check on his neighbors and to see how widespread the damage appeared.

The neighbors also had come out to check on the Whitlocks.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Whitlock had found her cell phone in debris and called 911.

Whitlock left a flash light with his neighbor and returned home. They spent the rest of the night in their pickup truck.

Pointing to one of the blown out windows, Mrs. Whitlock said that was where their 17-year-old son often sat as he work on his computer. Thankfully, she said, he had spent the night with a friend.

"We are lucky," she said. "We can rebuild. We were in the only place in the house that protected. If we had been in the living room we could have been injured or killed."

A two-by-four piece of lumber had pierced the house, stopping just short of striking the television.

Whitlock noted that a bathroom and closet were between their bedroom and the side of the home that had taken the brunt of the storm.

Outside, a shed was destroyed and the wind blew all of its contents next to the house. Volunteers had helped sort the items into piles away from the house.

As they sorted items, Whitlock said the wind had carried away a 12-foot boat as well as a 12-foot sailboat.

"We are going to rebuild," Whitlock said. "We are going to get back to work and carry on -- and listen to the weather before we go to bed."