Storms leave mark on eastern part of N.C.

Posted May 12, 2008

— Gov. Mike Easley on Monday dispatched damage assessment teams to the eastern part of the state, where storms and tornadoes hit towns in Onslow, Jones and Bertie counties.

It might be Tuesday, however, before officials know what type of assistance to request, Easley said.

As many as 16 tornadoes were reported to have moved through that area late Sunday afternoon, and there were at least 13 reports of minor injuries – including six in Onslow County. (Go inside the storm.)

Citing the National Weather Service, Mark Goodman, director of Onslow County Emergency Management, said an EF-2 tornado with wind speeds reaching 120 mph touched down there, destroying seven structures and damaging 15 others, seven of which sustained major damage. (Greg Fishel explains the EF scale.)

Total damage estimates are about $327,500, Goodman said.

Mobile homes leveled in Onslow County

Onslow County emergency officials said the tornado leveled a convenience store and six mobile homes off U.S. Highway 17. (Watch Mike Charbonneau's report.)

Bobby Smith, of Belgrade, said a flying piece of debris hit him in the head and knocked him unconscious while he was looking at a funnel cloud out the door of his mobile home.

The tornado tore off the roof, stood the home on one end and dropped it back down with his wife, Tina, and 9-year-old daughter, Page, inside, Smith said. (Watch Smith talk about his experience as he surveys damage from the storm.)

"I thought my wife and child were gone," Smith said. "That's the first thing I done, start hollering for them. I could hear my wife hollering for me. And when I got to her, they were lying side by side."

His wife and daughter were trapped underneath the refrigerator, Smith said. He helped them get out, and the family members only suffered cuts and bruises, for which they were treated at a local hospital.

The tornado also leveled the Belgrade Express Mart and destroyed six units in the Belgrade Mobile Home Estates, both at U.S. 17 and White Oak Road, said Jerry Parker Sr., who owns buildings on both properties. (Watch Sky 5 video of the damage in Onslow County.)

The convenience-store's owner, Mohammed Almaghrabi, and Parker's son, Jerry Parker Jr., were driving to the store when they saw the tornado.

"I could see the tornado coming from the back, and everything was in the sky flying, so I couldn't make it to the store," Almaghrabi said.

An employee inside the store escaped unharmed.

The elder Parker said that due to hard financial times, he did not have insurance on either the store or the mobile home park. However, Parker added that although it would be tough to get things back together, he planned to pick up the pieces.

The main part of the Belgrade Express Mart building was constructed in 1947. It had survived hurricanes Hazel, Fran and Floyd.

Storm flattens century-old church in Bertie County

Nine people were injured and 34 buildings damaged by hail in Bertie County, Easley said during a news conference Monday morning on the state budget.  (Watch Sky 5 video of the damage in Bertie County.)

Officials said two people were injured and major damage occurred in that county, including the 120-year-old Luella Baptist Church, which was flattened in the winds. (Watch Erin Coleman's report.)

Services are still held at the historic church, but no one was inside when a tornado blew off the roof, walls collapsed and everything inside was crushed.

"I just thank God no one was here to get hurt," said Oscar Jones, who serves as a deacon. "We can always rebuild, but the main thing is no one got hurt."

His grandfather and father were baptized at the church. Now, other churches in the area have offered their buildings for service.

"You don't expect things like this," he said. "You certainly don't."

Elsewhere, rains and winds

Officials confirmed that a tornado touched down at Cat's Square in Lincoln County, west of Charlotte.

Reports of wind damage also came in from Goldston in Chatham County.

The weekend storms brought 1.02 inches of rain to Chapel Hill and 0.94 inches to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

In northeastern North Carolina, Elizabeth City received 0.33 inches of rain. Farther south along the coast, New Bern got 0.79 inches.

Fayetteville and Goldsboro each had around a third of an inch, while Lumberton received 0.83 inches.

Roanoke Rapids came in with 0.59 inches and Rocky Mount with 0.37.


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  • shine May 12, 2008

    I talked to a guy that was in front of the Ahoskie Fire Chief and he knew nothing of a church that was destroyed there. I also talked with a tobacco farmer in Aulander that farms about 10 miles ( 5 or so on each side) at different places on both sides of highway 11. He didn't know where the 'grapefruit' hail was either. It did level a church, mobile home, equipment shelters, and took the second story out of a brick house about a mile out of Lewiston. It seemed to continue toward Colerain although it stayed in the air, snapping a few tops out of trees and curling up some tin roofs on barns. I think that it got a bit out of proportion from what I saw on the news and talking to some reputable contacts.

  • Godschild43 May 12, 2008

    tgw,thank you for your comment.This is vey true phone lines are proably down.Im praying for their safty as well as every one else.If my son could call me i know he would.He knows how i worry ha!ha! My other son said if we didn't hear any thing by the weekend he was going to go and check on hime.A brothers love.

  • tgw May 12, 2008

    Remember Godchild, when heavy storms like that go thru, phone lines go down very quickly. So do cell towers. They are probably fine, just be patient and pray for them-for all storm victims.
    Concerning the hail, I've heard several reports of grapefruit sized hail-4.25" that's huge. Imagine what an ice ball 4.25" around will do to your caar-your windshield,... your body. Wow-it will put a hurtin a you and your car. And tobacco plants, let's hope they we not damaged as well.

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount May 12, 2008

    How're those rain barrels working out?

  • jenstog May 12, 2008

    Tornados have me freaked out ever since Hurricane Fran... where unconfirmed ones tore through my family's property.

  • Godschild43 May 12, 2008

    This is very up sitting to me i have children that live in the path of this Tornado.I do not know if they are alright.Can not get them on phone.My prayer's goes out to all that was in the tornado area.Ithink they said they where 16 of them in different area's.We need to pray for these people instead of worrying about how big the hail was or insurance.God bless all of you.

  • seankelly15 May 12, 2008

    SomeRandomGuy - A drought is not dependent on a given amount of rain on a given day.

  • computer trainer May 12, 2008

    I am sorry for Mr Parker, but as a business owner and landlord, he is foolish to not have insurance to protect his property. You add that into the amount that you are charging for leases. I guess now we will have to pay for his lack of insurance.

  • SomeRandomGuy May 12, 2008

    I bet they will STILL say we are in a drought when the report comes out on Thursday though.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer May 12, 2008

    grapefruit sized hail? whoah!