Possible Irene-spawned tornado levels Columbia homes

Posted August 29, 2011
Updated August 30, 2011

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— The National Weather Service is still trying to determine if a tornado hit the coastal community of Columbia in Tyrrell County on Friday night, hours before Hurricane Irene slammed the area.

Doris and Henry Rhines’ house along U.S. Highway 64 was demolished during the back-to-back storms. Cinder blocks from its foundation lay scattered where the home once stood and their belongings littered a field across the road on Monday.

Swirling winds pulled the four cars parked in the Rhines' driveway and spun one around, flipped one over, pushed one aside and drove one 20 yards away, where it sat collecting rubble as Irene continued on its destructive course.

"We just have to start from scratch," said Courtney Spencer, the Rhines' granddaughter.

Columbia home leveled Columbia family's home ripped to rubble during Irene

Spencer and her son had been staying with her grandparents while her husband is deployed to Afghanistan with the Navy.

"My grandparents are holding up pretty good. We're all holding up, it's just, it's hard," Spencer said. "It's overwhelming to see all this."

Spencer said she cried when she saw her son's bed floating in a ditch.

Many other homes in the Rhines' neighborhood were damaged or destroyed and some minor flooding still impacts several communities throughout Tyrrell County.

Most businesses in downtown Columbia had some flooding, but expected to be dried out and open for business on Tuesday.


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  • superman Aug 30, 2011

    Am glad they are ok. But my question, why didnt they leave and so to a safer shelter? Same old same thing, people always think that nothing will happen to them-- it will happen to someone else. Politicians and crooks think they too smart to get caught. People stay in their homes during extreme weather and then they call 911 to expect someone else to risk their life to help them.

  • RWS Aug 30, 2011

    It's not a home, it's a mo-bile home.

  • jbp1958 Aug 30, 2011

    Thank God these people survived this. As a native of Columbia, my heart goes out to them. WRAL can you get any news from the Alligator community in Tyrrell County ? The tidewater is rapidly rising in that area of the county. My 101 yr old grandfather lives there. Once again, thank you WRAL for all of the coverage on Tyrrell County.