Tornado Destroys Northern Durham Home
Posted March 20, 1998
BAHAMA — In Durham County, witnesses say it took four minutes to turn one home into a pile of rubble. One family's house looks more like a landfill after a tornado literally ripped it apart Friday night.
Fortunately, no one was home at the time. A nearby trailer was knocked three feet off its foundation. Golf-ball sized hail shattered windows, and rushing waters turned most yards and roads into wading pools. No serious injuries were reported. WRAL's Debra Morgan and photographer, Robert Meikle surveyed the damage.
Hail pounded the windshield as we drove up Highway 15-501, north of Durham. Flashes of lightning illuminated an unmistakable funnel cloud. It came down out of the clouds, spun for a few seconds, then went back up again into the darkness.
It was one of series of storms to hit northeast Durham County Friday evening. Shirley Jacobs' mobile home was hit by flying debris. It was knocked off its foundation by three feet when she says a tornado hit about dinner time.
"I got between the couch and the chair," Jacobs says. "That's when the window blowed. I went into the little bathroom, shut both doors, got down on my knees, and I prayed."
Just across a field, the same storm leveled Peggy Simpson's home. Her family is glad she wasn't home at the time.
Two people were home about a half a mile away, closer to Bahama. A woman received minor injuries when she tried to escape. The force of the storm knocked her down, while ripping her home off its foundation.
Rushing water turned roadways into rivers. High wind rapped anything in its path with ease. The power amazed everyone who experienced the storm.
"The hail, I was thought for sure was going to come through the roof of the car," says Durham resident Steve Williams. "It was pretty intense."
What surprised people most in the northern Durham and Person County area the most was how quickly it happened. It took just four minutes to turn one home into a mess. Most people say they're thankful just to be alive.
Person County Sheriff Dennis Oakley says he's seen a tornado before, but not this close to his own home.
Luckily, no serious injuries were reported.