Local News

Harnett County Seniors See 10-Year Effort Wiped Out In Seconds

Posted August 16, 2004

— As the damage estimates came in and people cleaned up after Hurricane Charley on Monday, Harnett County residents seemed more concerned about the damage left behind by Tropical Storm Bonnie.

A tornado cut through several communities in Harnett County last week as Bonnie moved through the area.

The tornado destroyed nine houses in one part of the county and damaged about 150 buildings.

Among the damaged buildings was the senior center in Johnsonville. Though only 4 months old, the whole building was sagging Monday and looked like it was ready to fall over.

It took members 10 years to raise the money to build the center. The tornado needed just 30 seconds to destroy it.

"It just absolutely broke my heart, because I know how much these people had worked to get that done," said a woman who donated land for the center.

There was plenty of heartache in the area Monday. But that didn't stop people from rebuilding.

Residents and roofers nailed together what the tornado hammered.

"We talked to another fellow around the corner," roofer Dean Cade said. "It took a lot of the plywood off his house and blew out all his windows -- and he slept through it.

"It's amazing what a tornado can do. That's for sure."

The damage was obvious at the Presbyterian church. So was the frustration.

"I'm going back and call the insurance company and have them send their representative out here," the Rev. Eli Anderson said. "Because instead of them coming, they sent a construction company. At this particular time, that's not exactly what we're looking for."

Members said they were not sure if they could salvage the church because of less obvious damage, like a crack in the foundation.

"Before we can give anybody an intelligent answer, we're going to have to get some engineers in here to look at it," Anderson said.

The tornado flung a house into the church's back yard. The house was reduced to a pile of rubble.

Though another house managed to stay standing, the owner's satellite dish was crumpled -- its concrete base uprooted.

And then there was the senior center. Having just opened in April, it was on the verge of collapse Monday.

"It just broke my heart when I saw it," Anderson said.

On Tuesday, a damage-assessment team with the state is scheduled to tour this part of Harnett County. The team will put a dollar figure on the damage and decide who is eligible for public assistance.

Meanwhile, totals were in from another tornado that hit Pender County last week. The estimated cost: more than $1 million for repairs.

Three people, including a child, died when that tornado ripped through Rocky Point. The storm destroyed 17 homes and damaged a dozen more.

Pender County was hit again Saturday, when Charley damaged more than 150 homes.

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