Monday, April 18, 2011

Tornado Rips Through Slippin' Southern's Snow Hill, NC

Tornado passing by the front of our house about 3 miles away.
All is quiet now, it's Sunday night with a full moon, clear skies and a cool 55 degrees but it was a different story here in Slippin' Southern's quiet little town of Snow Hill in Greene County, North Carolina just 24 hours ago. 

We had been watching a line of storms moving across the middle of the U.S. for the past few days and the local media had told us that it would most likely come through our area on Saturday afternoon or evening, and this is one of those times they totally got it right. Here at our studio and home we spent the first half of the day completing a few orders, shipping and picking up supplies for the week ahead plus getting something for dinner from our favorite grocery store in Greenville, Fresh Fields for the evening ahead since we knew we might be kept in by the storm.

A downed power line we encountered on our way to see the tornado aftermath.
By about 5:20 p.m. it all of a sudden turned very cloudy and dark. I walked out on our front porch and just watched the violent rain and wind, then it started to hail. I was also thinking to myself, in the movie Twister, isn't this when the tornado comes? At first the hail balls were about the size of your thumb, then they got larger, doubling in size. Then moments later I looked to the southeast horizon and noticed a funnel cloud that seemed quite large coming down from the deck of dark clouds above it. It was far enough away that I could not hear it but from all of the videos I've ever seen, it looked like the real deal.

It moved quite quickly across our eastern horizon. About the speed of a quick moving cloud. No sound, hardly any lightening or thunder either. I called to my family who were indoors to come out and see it. My daughter came out first, then Susan, our son was in route coming home from work in Goldsboro. We were worried about him too. In about 5 to 8 minutes, the tornado managed to move across the horizon and finally out of sight to our northeast. By now we had lost power for about an hour. When it came back on we started watching local news to see what they were reporting.

Andy's Restaurant on Monday after the tornado.
By now our son arrived home safely and we were preparing diner and discussing the events of the evening when our daughter received a phone call from a school friend who told us that a tornado had just passed through town, took out a popular restaurant, Andy's, and that the middle school's roof had caved in. It was at that moment that we all looked at each other at once and said "Let's go see it!"

The four of us all piled into our Blazzer that I had parked in one of our barns which I never do unless a storm is eminent. We pulled out and headed south on highway 58. As we got down to Route 13 the local sheriff had a roadblock so we had to take a roundabout way around our town to get near the impact area. We had to weave all around many back roads to get into town. Along the way we were traveling down one particular road when we came across a downed power line. As we drove over it we passed a wooded lot that had been stripped of it's leaves and many large trees were on the ground or snapped in half about 10 feet up their trunks. In the distance what looked like a barn was totally flatted. We then drove just 100 feet further and saw a very old large house that had half of its roof torn off. There were many cars and people that had arrived on the scene to help these residents.

One of the houses near Green Co. High School, many of these homeowners suffered considerable property damage.
 As we arrived near Andy's, there were people everywhere. Just like us, many locals had driven, walked and biked into the parking lot of the local stores near where an EF2 tornado had came came through a thick wooded area, hit a small strip mall, lifted a couple of new homes off of their foundations, damaged several others, totally demolished a historical farmhouse and pack-houses that were slated to be Snow Hill's new Farmers Market, leveled the local softball field and park, demolished a new small used car dealership, leveled a fruit stand and took out the roofs of several houses and business in the near area.

We then decided to go the the middle-school and see the damage there. We easily passed through a police roadblock and made our way to the school. I noticed that I had a low fuel light so we made what I thought would be a quick fuel stop. It turned into a 20 minute ordeal since credit card machines were not working making everyone get cash first. Finally, we went on towards the school but never made it, as we got close police roadblocks were set up which turned us back. Along the way however, we saw many homes with downed trees and damaged roofs.

This home just of of Route 58 in Snow Hill was lifted from its foundation and moved about 100 feet.  The homeowner rode the storm out in her bathroom thinking how painful it was going to be to die, she was on the local news.
At this point the sky was looking dark again so we decided to head home since we did not want to get caught out in our truck in case another tornado came through. It took some time to get home since our normal way was littered with road blocks, traffic and debris. Throughout the evening each of us commented as we watched the storms move northeast away from our area on our local news how lucky we all were to not be effected directly by this terrible storm. The whole event wasn't scary like I thought it would be, it was more surreal, you just could not believe it was happening as it was happening. I'm 50 and this was the first time I've ever witnessed a live tornado.

At the time of this posting there have been 30 deaths and many more injuries by this line of deadly tornadoes that hit North Carolina Saturday night. The cost of the devastation is still being tallied. In our town of Snow Hill officials estimate the damage to be over 7 million dollars. I've seen pictures of the damage to our middle school and I believe that it alone would be over 7 million dollars to repair so I'm sure these numbers will rise in the days to come.

School has been cancelled for this week in Green County and Spring Break was scheduled for next week giving the local children a two week vacation. Which works out pretty good because it will take some time to sort things out here in our little town of Snow Hill. Our hearts and thoughts go out to all the unfortunate folks all over North Carolina who've been touched by this terrible spring storm of 2011.

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