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Fayetteville business owners, school leaders remember 'ugly' scene after 2011 tornadoes

Posted April 13

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— Cumberland County wasn't spared from tornado damage when storms ravaged the region in 2011, and the Yadkin Road area near Fort Bragg was especially hard hit.

Utility poles were blown over around the area, and cars ended up stacked up like pancakes.

Bob Miarer, who owns an auto shop in the area, said he vividly remembers one car ending up on two others with a tree in between.

"It was ugly," Miarer said.

Miarer's shop on Yadkin Road was destroyed by the storms.

"The doors were blown off the front of the building, and the front glass and everything was blown out," he said.

Miarer says one of the first things that happened after the storms moved through was fellow small-business owners from a nearby shop telling him they had given someone first aid in his auto shop.

"(They) said, 'Hey, look, we hope you don't mind. There's blood on your floor. We applied first aid to someone who had a head injury,'" Miarer said.

Miarer's shop was one of several businesses and homes leveled along Yadkin Road.

A 100-year-old china cabinet in Mike Lewis' home survived, but the rest of his house in the Cottonade neighborhood wasn't so lucky.

"(The tornado) tore off the front porch and garage. It tore off all the shingles," he said. "The house was still intact, but inside, the walls were leaning."

Lewis' house had to be torn down, but the former U.S. Army soldier rebuilt. Even in the wake of the storms, he wanted to look toward the future, he said.

"It's not just for me, it was for everybody," he said. "Once you get over the initial shock, stay focused. God will bring you through it."

Two miles away from the devastation on Yadkin Road, Ben Martin Elementary School and the damage it sustained became a bit of a symbol – one that highlighted the power of the storm and the importance of when it came through.

The storms rolled through on a Saturday afternoon, destroying Building D, a building that would have been full of kindergartners if school had been open.

"With the amount of damage to this particular building, especially with it being the youngest children, I'm afraid there would have been some injuries as a result of the storm if it had been a school day," Cumberland County Associate Superintendent Tim Kinlaw said.

Ben Martin Elementary Principal Crystal Brown said she remembers her school looking like it had been hit by a bomb. She said teddy bears and children's clothing were stuck in a nearby fence.

"At that moment, I think that's when it hit me," she said. "That was the first tear I shed because I realized how bad it could have been.,"

Students finished the 2011 year in other nearby schools, and Ben Martin Elementary reopened in August 2011 after $5.2 million in damage was repaired.

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  • Johnathan Gault Apr 13, 8:00 p.m.
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    It was tough, the storm did tens of dollars worht of improvements.