Local News

Hardest-hit Raleigh neighborhood rebuilds after tornado

Posted April 16, 2012 10:20 a.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2012 5:47 p.m. EDT

— Last year’s April 16 tornadoes left a wide path of destruction, but no area was hit harder in Wake County than Stony Brook – a neighborhood of mobile homes in northeast Raleigh, made up mostly of Hispanic people, many of whom spoke very little English. But their story of rebuilding can be understood in any language.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and the clouds were beginning to build. Manuel Arnenta was home on Branchwater Circle, watching through his window as the storm approached.

“It was, like, 4 o’clock. It got dark, and it started to rain hard,” he recalled recently. “A big noise came from this way, and all the mobile homes blew out.”

The tornado was on the ground for more than 67 miles, leaving a path of destruction from Moore County to Raleigh, with maximum wind speeds estimated at 160 miles per hour. Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.

Arnenta was lucky. His home had only missing shingles and broken glass, so he turned his attention east. He saw a thin metal shell of a mobile home that had four children inside and rushed over to help.

“I see them, all four kids together. They (were) in the bedroom,” Arnenta said.

Even clinging together, the four children were powerless against the force of the storm. Siblings Daniel Quistian-Nino, 9, and Yaire Quistian-Nino, 6 months, and their cousins, Osvaldo Coronado-Nino, 8, and Kevin Uriel Coronado-Nino, 3, died as a result of the storm.

“The tree chopped through their roof and the floor, too, and pushed all the way down to the ground," Arnenta said.

A year later, it's hard to find any sign of the storm. Empty lots look more like gardens, sprouting utility boxes from the ground where damaged homes once sat. New and remodeled homes are sprouting up as well.

Arnenta says neighbors don't talk much about that day one year ago, but they'll never forget when the storm clouds began to build.

“The tornado passed, maybe like 10 seconds, 15 seconds. That's it,” Arnenta said. “But when we go out, we see everything destroyed, all the mobile homes, trees, everything.”