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Columbus County town marks five years since fatal tornado

Posted November 16, 2011

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— It was unusual day – a warm fall morning mixed with an unstable atmosphere. Five years ago Wednesday, an early morning tornado ripped through the town of Riegelwood in Columbus County, killing eight people.

“It was about 6:30 in the morning. It got very dark, like midnight,” Vivian Wadell now recalls. “It sounded like a train.”

The F3 tornado, with winds up to 200 mph, caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to a mobile home park on Holly Tree Lane and Pretty Branch Lane – about a mile from the Cape Fear River.

Wadell says she often thinks about the neighbors she lost. Those memories are about all that remains of the tornado. Houses have been rebuilt, and rural life has rebounded.

It's impossible to explain why the tornado hit that neighborhood that day, but Wadell says she doesn’t need an explanation.

“It really has brought me closer to God,” she said. “I learned that God is miraculous. I learned that He loves us all.”

Five years after seeing the worst, she has faith and says she’s ready for whatever comes next.

Columbus County town remembers fatal tornado Columbus County town remembers fatal tornado

“We never know when God will come,” she said. “I’m at peace if another (tornado comes), and I don’t want another one to come, but if another one comes, I’m ready to meet Him.”

A handful of people who survived the storm still live in the neighborhood. Some say they've moved on. Others say they never will.

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  • JDNCSU Nov 16, 2011

    These unusually warm Nov days have always been scary for producing severe weather and seem to be increasing in frequency...