Tornado Survivor: 'By the Grace of God, I Got Out'

Posted February 18, 2008

— A storm system caused damage in eight counties as it moved through eastern North Carolina overnight Sunday, and a Greene County family of three survived a category F2 tornado.

The family escaped with only scrapes, bruises and a few stitches after the tornado, which carried winds of 120-137 mph, demolished their Loop Road house in Hookerton early Monday.

Shannon Edwards, 19, said she was in bed around 4 a.m. when she heard what sounded like a train about to come through her window. Her mother, Wanda, was in a nearby bedroom, and her father, Saint Paul, was downstairs on the couch getting ready for work.

"It sounded like a big old train. And then the house started moving, and I'm watching the house go," Saint Paul Edwards said. "And I'm still sitting on the couch, and all of a sudden, I get thrown out of the couch onto the floor on my stomach."

“My whole bed flipped up and tossed me into my closet,” Shannon said. “I landed on my stomach, and I heard my mom yelling for me.”

Shannon was buried underneath 8 feet of furniture and debris. A small jewelry box was all that kept her dresser off her, Shannon said.

"It took me a while to get out, and I could hear my baby say, 'Help me, Daddy. Help me, Daddy," Saint Paul Edwards said.

While he ran for help, Wanda, who had escaped from under her bed, prayed with Shannon.

"All I did was talk to God the whole time, and I knew things were OK," said Shannon, who is a nursing student at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro and who was home visiting for the weekend. "I was like, 'God, this can't be it. I have too much work to do.'"

Rescuers managed to get Shannon out more than an hour later, "by the grace of God," she said.

"There is a God. Believe me, there is a God," Saint Paul Edwards said.

The same tornado that hit the Edwards' house damaged the roof of a nearby mobile home and snapped a few tree limbs.

Storm damage was reported in seven more counties: Camden, Chowan, Beaufort, Lenoir, Martin, Pasquotank and Sampson.

Preliminary reports indicated that a second tornado was what caused damaged in Beaufort County, according to the National Weather Service.

A building on Bear Grass Road was flattened, and four tobacco barns were destroyed, officials said. About a half-mile from that location, a house's roof, front porch and utility building sustained extensive damage, officials said.

Numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms passed over the heart of central North Carolina overnight. Strong storms produced gusty winds up to 40 mph.

The NWS reported that the storm dropped 0.29 inches of rain at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, 1.26 inches in Fayetteville, 2.29 inches in Lumberton and 0.93 inches in Wilmington.

The storms that crossed North Carolina were part of a larger system that spawned tornadoes and strong winds in three other states Sunday.

"From a severe weather standpoint, this is just kicking off way earlier than it normally does," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

In Pratville, Ala., an category tornado with winds between 140 and 150 mph tore a path a quarter-mile wide, injured 29 people and damaged 200 homes and up to 100 businesses.

A tornado destroyed four home and more than 60 businesses in the Florida Panhandle.

The NWS could not confirm if tornadoes struck Georgia, but state officials said strong winds left 10 people injured and more than 50 homes either damaged or destroyed.

"That's the state of the science right now, in all honesty, that you have to mention the potential for these isolated events," Fishel said. "They won't happen the majority of the time, but boy, when they do, (for) the people that are affected, it's a big deal."


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  • thescarletpimpernel Feb 18, 2008

    Glad those folks made it out alive, I'm sure it was very frightening for them. They are so fortunate to be alive.

    I'll never forget the F4 tornado that tore through Raleigh in 1988, I had several friends who were in it's path, one of them still gets the jitters when a vacuum or blender is turned on unexpectedly. They take serious heed of tornado watches. The wind blew all long, that night, I remember my dogs having a fit, the torrential rains, the strobe lights flashing above the swirling clouds, and a steady roar that never let up. I didn't know Raleigh was hit until my father called from D.C. around 5 A.M. I'm still amazed at the low number of fatalities from that storm.

  • Here kitty kitty Feb 18, 2008

    Oh Darn, I thought it was the radar with the million watts of power!

  • Riverracer Feb 18, 2008

    I'm convinced there is an anti-snow bubble over eastern NC, particularly over the Pamlico River. Somebody needs to pop the bubble!

  • mommy2caroline Feb 18, 2008

    And of course now my husband thinks because of all this we should get major snow within a week or 2. I think he forgets we are in the anti-snow bubble area of Eastern NC! ;)

  • mommy2caroline Feb 18, 2008

    We heard this tornado or one of it's little friends come near our house. Needless to say, I was up at 3:30 this morning wondering if we needed to go hang out in the hallway. I brought our daughter into bed with us. I knew I would not be able to rest until I did. These people are mighty fortunate that they lived to tell. We are one county over and had wind damage, trees down and an overall restless night.

  • Obscurite Feb 18, 2008

    Story about a miracle attributed to God---check

    Comment by ptahandatum extolling Zeus---check

    Posters deride ptahandatum as being some kind of heathen---check

    Yep, just another day on GOLO...

  • mmafighterwife Feb 18, 2008

    I know this family very well, they were truly blessed. My son goes to school near their home and to see the destruction of that home was unbelievable and for them to make it out of all that rubble was nothing but the grace of God. May God bless this family!

  • VT1994Hokie Feb 18, 2008

    I would say that they were very fortunate indeed. The good Lord was watching over them. Happy for the family that no one got hurt.

  • computer trainer Feb 18, 2008

    I would imagine that they got her out as soon as possible, but after a tornado, everyone should go outside and be accounted for, before starting to try to rescue anyone else. That way, you know how many people are missing, and who is missing. Also, when Rescue personnel get there, you can tell them who they should be looking for.

  • Lissa13082 Feb 18, 2008

    R.O.BdaCZAR - just ignore pta, he likes to talk out of his A__ sometimes. He just likes to get people fired up, you'll find that out if you read enough of his comments!