Raleigh, N.C. — A store that has been in the Raleigh community for nearly 40 years reopened Friday, more than a year after 25 tornadoes tore through North Carolina, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
The owners of Coats Auto Body and Paint were determined to rebuild after their business at 1300 S. Saunders St. was badly damaged. The roof was ripped off and water gushed like a geyser from a broken pipe.
"I couldn’t believe it. It was just unbelievable. It was a total wreck," owner Jim Malerba said.
Wife and co-owner Tana Malerba said the scene "looked like a war zone." But she also remembers the support the couple received.
"Even the neighbors in the back, everyone was wonderful," she said. "Everybody pulled together and were helping each other out."
The couple relocated its business to Garner while working on the S. Saunders Street location, which was looted for scrap metal during the rebuild. Now, a year later, they plan to keep both stores running.
"It’s been a year filled with blessings and just chaos. We’ve met so many wonderful people that have helped us along the way. We’ve been very fortunate," Tana Malerba said. "Jim put things in perspective for me. He said, 'You know, we could have been going to funerals this week instead of doing what we’re doing.' So, we just did what we had to do to get back up and running again."
The April 16, 2011, tornadoes touched down 25 times in 33 counties. The twisters killed 24 people and destroyed or damaged more than 6,500 homes and 113 businesses. The most lives lost were in rural Bertie County, where 12 people died.