Local News

South Raleigh spends busy days recovering from tornado

Posted April 22, 2011 1:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2011 7:18 p.m. EDT

— Residents, workers and business owners in south Raleigh said Friday that conditions are steadily improving since a tornado tore through the area six days ago.

The tornado, which started its 63-mile trek in Moore County and passed through Lee and Wake counties, hit South Saunders Street south of downtown Raleigh with winds of more than 100 mph, according to National Weather Service estimates. It left a trail of damage 25 to 70 yards wide.

The roof from Earp's Seafood blew into Teddi Brown's house on Summit Avenue, off South Saunders Street. She was at work Saturday and was surprised at what she found when she got home.

"I was crawling through treetops just to get to my house. I did a nose count, and all five of my dogs were safe," Brown said. "My neighbors, everybody got in it right away and started cleaning up."

Homeowners Michelle McKay and Daryl Merritt said they have been so busy clearing debris and repairing damage since the storm that they have gotten little sleep. McKay said they tried to go to work one day but couldn't think about work.

"We realized that we were wasting company time. Our minds were here," she said. "This is our tornado vacation. We are taking vacation this week."

The neighbors said they are working together to help one another recover from the disaster.

"I'd like to say it brings a neighborhood together, but this neighborhood was already together," McKay said. "It's a nice neighborhood, and we're going to put it back to being a nice neighborhood. It'll end up being even prettier, probably."

On South Saunders Street, the tornado ripped off the roof and side walls of an auto body shop, tore shingles and siding off other buildings and snapped trees and power lines. The street remained closed until Monday.

Shawn Stokes was working at Murray's New and Used Tire shop, at 1202 S. Saunders St., when the tornado came through. He said he took cover behind a pile of tires.

"It was the loudest noise you ever heard in your life," Stokes said. "(It was) like three trains passing at the same time. It was so loud, man. I started crying. I was scared."

The back wall of Murray's tire shop was blown out, and the roof was damaged.

Stokes said the shop has stayed open for business, even as workers repaired the damage this week.

Workers and customers have been swapping storm stories, and many of them have a common theme, he said.

"The way people talk about it, everybody was just happy to be back around," Stokes said. "You got to give all your thanks to God."