Local News

Easley Looks At Tornado Damage In Parts Of N.C.

Posted September 28, 2004

— Gov. Mike Easley surveyed storm damage in Moore County Tuesday caused by the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne and directed all available state resources to assist with cleanup and recovery.

"Our state appears to have escaped major, widespread damage as a result of this storm," said Easley. "However, there are isolated areas of the state where our response teams are out in full force today assessing the damage and providing assistance to those who suffered loss. I want our citizens to know the state is here to support them."

In all, nine tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in the state since Monday, with most of them causing only minor damage, the governor said. The counties that had tornados were Moore, Wake, Richmond and Martin.

In Moore County, an initial assessment found about 150 buildings with damage, mostly in Southern Pines.

A tornado blew down a number of trees in Catherine Brown's yard. Brown said she planted most of the trees more than 30 years ago when her parents built the house.

"It sounded like pencils, pieces of wood snapping, click, click, click. It happened so fast," she said.

Car salesman Pete Hernandez saw a tornado touch down in Southern Pines as he worked at Bill Smith Ford.

"I didn't stick around to look at it," Hernandez said. "I ran for cover."

Hernandez said he saw about 20 or 30 vehicles damaged, some completely crushed. He said the roofs of some buildings flew off, and a cinderblock wall behind the car dealership collapsed.

The tornado left five leaks in J.C. Sloan's roof. He said there was simply no way to prepare or react.

"It only lasted a few seconds. I didn't have time to think," he said.

There were no reports of any injuries. There was also damage in Pinehurst. FEMA and the American Red Cross have been in the area, offering help to those affected by the storms.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado that hit Moore County is classified as a F1 with winds from 73-110 miles per hour. Damage spread over a two-mile area with some areas as wide as 300 yards.

The tornado in Wake County did not have a continuous path of damage. There was an area with damage about 100 yards wide. It was an F0 with maximum wind speed at 40-73 miles per hour.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service canceled flash flood and tornado watches that were in effect for parts of the state. Some areas of the Piedmont received as much as 6 inches of rain.

"There will be some off and on showers with things improving this afternoon," said Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. "I don't know how much sun we'll see, but there is a lot of dry air coming into the system."

Statewide, the damages paled by comparison to the widespread flooding and wind damage caused by hurricanes Frances and Ivan -- particularly in the North Carolina mountains. While there were no fatalities from Frances, Ivan killed 10 people in the state.

A burst of heavy wind blew through East Club Boulevard near Geer Street in Durham, leaving at least one home uninhabitable. A tree smashed through the roof of T.J. Althaus' home and a large piece of scrap metal blew through the front window from all the way across the street.

"I just got through remodelling and just about all of it is gone," he said.

Althaus said no one was home when the storm hit except for the family pet, who was not hurt.

The remnants of Jeanne were powerful enough to knock down a number of trees in the Hadden Hall neighborhood in Apex.

"It was alarming, you know, rain thrashing against the windows. You could tell there was going to be some debris around, but I didn't anticipate that it was going to be as bad as it is," resident David Hinks said.

No damage was immediately reported from another possible tornado in northeastern Richmond County. Possible tornadoes were also reported in Cleveland, Forsyth, Lenoir, and Rutherford counties.

In the west, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for several counties as Jeanne moved into the state.

"We've had a lot of people buying chain saws and chain saw accessories," said Kyle Metcalf, who works at McNeely's Store and Rental in Cashiers.

Because the previous storms weakened soil at higher elevations, mud and rockslides were a danger.

"You hate to wish this stuff on anybody else, but I'm tired of it here," said Justin Hembree, an assistant manager in Henderson County who was manning the phones at the county's emergency operations center.

Easley declared a state of emergency for North Carolina and activated 300 North Carolina National Guard soldiers to help with storm response. The Guard members were divided among emergency management offices in Butner, Conover and Kinston.

Jeanne hit Florida as a hurricane, but was downgraded to a tropical depression. Forecasters had issued a flood watch for the state from the Tennessee border to Raleigh.

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