Published: 2011-11-17 05:59:00
Updated: 2011-11-18 06:36:37
Posted November 17, 2011
Updated November 18, 2011
Thomasville, N.C. — The National Weather Service estimates that an upper-end EF-2 tornado struck Davidson County Wednesday night, killing six people.
A woman and her granddaughter were among the six people killed as a stormy cold front spawned tornadoes across the South.
Neighbors said the 51-year-old woman and 3-year-old girl were home alone on Meadow Run Lane outside Lexington around 6 p.m., authorities said. Their names haven't been released.
Only the foundation of the home was left. Neighbors said they helped rescuers carry the girl's body out from a pile of debris on a folding card table.
"She was just beautiful – big blue eyes and so sweet," said Maegan Chriscoe, whose daughter played with the young victim.
The storm left a 200-yard-wide track of debris for 7 to 10 miles, damaging 60 buildings in Davidson County and more than a dozen in Randolph County, authorities said. Fifteen people were injured, and about 40 people left homeless.
Alan Hughes was at the hospital when an apparent tornado touched down near his home at U.S. Highway 64 and N.C. Highway 109, south of Thomasville.
"I came home to nothing. Everything's gone – my mobile home, clothes," Alan Hughes said. "The restaurant that I worked in, it's gone completely, just destroyed."
Hughes' friend, Chris Duncan, has taken him in.
"I have to start over from somewhere," Hughes said.
Duncan, too, had a narrow escape from the storm, which ripped through a nearby seafood restaurant, game room, gas station and hair salon. Duncan, his wife and children were at the game room when his brother-in-law called to warn them the approaching severe weather.
"It was just in that little bit of time that we had got our stuff and gathered our kids and got out of there before it really hit," Duncan said. "We're lucky. I know there were some people in there might have got hurt that weren't lucky, but we were lucky."
Around 20 people in the game room rushed into an office in the middle of the building when someone spotted a funnel cloud. When the storm passed, that office was the only part of the building left standing.
Winds tore the roof off and sent debris through the walls of Skipper's Seafood restaurant. Jennifer Starrett said she walked out of the restaurant straight into a tornado.
"Debris started falling. Things were hitting the car. The one roof landed there right in front of us," Starett told WFMY News. "At the time, honestly, it was just like, 'God, get us out of this. God, just get us through this.'"
Restaurant owner Lynn Feredinos she arrived soon after the storm and found workers and customers helping each other.
"It was unbelievable, but my main concern was that everybody was fine. The rest is history. I don't care about anything else," she told WFMY News.
Feredinos said she and her husband plan to reopen the restaurant, which they have run for 16 years.
Amy Dixon survived a possible tornado strike on her mobile home.
"I looked at my friend and said, 'Oh man, it's a tornado,'" Dixon told WFMY News. "It tore off my back porch. It crushed my minivan. My minivan is no longer. My whole back porch is gone."
Severe weather isn't unknown in North Carolina in the late fall, when temperatures often change dramatically. On Nov. 16, 2006, a tornado killed eight people in the Riegelwood community in Columbus County.