Weather

Two tornadoes injure woman, damage homes

Posted March 27, 2009 5:44 a.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2009 5:31 p.m. EDT

— One woman was injured and dozens of homes damaged when at least two tornadoes and thunderstorms hit along a swath from Robeson County to Wake County Friday evening.

The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes touched down between 4:30 p.m. and 5:11 p.m. near Parkton and Lumberton. At one point, tornado warnings were issued for seven counties: Wake, Johnston, Cumberland, Sampson, Wayne, Pitt and Greene counties.

Jamie Sewell, 23, was injured when a tornado destroyed her mobile home on East Everett Road, near Parkton, Sewell's sister, Nicky said. Charles Britt, with Robeson County Emergency Management, said the mobile home "was torn all to pieces."

Sewell was taken to Southeast Regional Hospital in Lumberton. She had surgery to stitch up a gash in her right arm, which was broken, but should be OK, her sister said. Sewell also suffered a fractured hand, cuts on her face and an ankle injury.

Her boyfriend, Kevin Kingsberry, was uninjured.

The tornado that injured her was an EF-1 – packing winds up to 88 mph – that touched down about 3 miles east of Parkton just after 5 p.m., according to the NWS. It first touched down along Parkton-Tobemory Road, halfway between U.S. Highway 301 and Interstate 95., then tracked north-northeast.

An EF-1 tornado touched down about 6 miles southeast of Lumberton between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. The tornado then skipped along a track to the north-northeast, creating sporadic damage, according to the NWS.

Witnesses said that two funnel clouds merged when the tornado touched down near Pope Crossing Road, damaging a shed and mobile home. At the site of another touchdown, two sheds and about a dozen trees were knocked down just south of Beulah Church and Old Whiteville roads. The tornado lifted before crossing Old Whiteville Road and moving into a swampy area, the NWS reported.

Interstate 95 was closed for about an hour in Cumberland County due to accidents and downed trees. Extensive delays developed during mile markers 40 and 44. State troopers said that after the initial accident, other drivers wrecked while trying get around the scene. One wreck involved an overturned tractor-trailer.

Joe Mosso said he saw a tornado heading north on I-95 while entering at the Highway 24 interchange.

"It looked to be about 2 miles wide, and it was just as black as black could be," Mosso said.

Brad Losh witnessed a funnel cloud while driving on I-95.

“I jumped out of my car and looked at it,” Losh said. The funnel cloud then went over the top of his head, he said.

The National Weather Service also got reports from law enforcement of tornado touchdowns at:

  • near Highway 59, 2 miles southeast of Hope Mills, in Cumberland County
  • near the Purolator plant, at Black and Decker and Cumberland roads, 4 miles southwest of Fayetteville, in Cumberland County
  • on Dixon Farm Road, in Hookerton in Greene County
  • at N.C. Highways 242 and 55, 3 miles southeast of Dunn in Sampson County
  • at N.C. Highways 13 and 421, near the Sandy Ridge Country Club, about 3 miles southeast of Spivey's Corner, in Sampson County
  • in a field near Highway 210 and Dell Meadows Road, 3 miles northwest of Four Oaks in Johnston County
  • on U.S. Highway 70, a half-mile east of exit 326, 5 miles southeast of Clayton in Johnston County

A look at tornado touchdowns, damage reports

Emergency officials said that the storms damaged at least 40 homes near Firetower Road in Greenville; 15 to 20 residential structures near Roslin Farm and Braxton roads in Hope Mills; and a home on Dixon Farm Road in Greene County. The roofs of a few brick homes in Hope Mills were halfway ripped off.

Greene County officials said that residences on Shady Grove and Larry Taylor roads were damaged. A house at 405 Larry Taylor Road was destroyed, two other houses received major damage, and a vinyl siding was ripped off a mobile home. Some trees were also twisted in half, officials said.

Greenville police said that windows were smashed, shingles blown off roofs and fences knocked down in the Ashcroft subdivision.

Damage was also reported in Hope Mills' Galberry Farms area, at the Maidenform plant in the Cumberland County Industrial Park, om Tom Starling and Chicken Foot roads; and along Sampson County's Bynum and Williams Lake roads; Plane View Highway, at Highway 13; and Ira B. Tart Road, near Dunn.

Viewer Penny McLauchlin reported seeing a tornado near her home around 5:10 p.m. in the Bridlewood area in Hope Mills.

“The storm was swirling and picking up lumber and limbs,” McLauchlin reported. "It was just a screeching, whirling sound."

Chris Brown survived the tornado tearing apart his mobile home on Braxton Road in Hope Mills.

"I'll never forget this as long as I live," Brown said.

In Fayetteville, the storm cut through the Snow Hill neighborhood, near I-95, downing trees and flinging around debris.

"It lifted the porch up, and all this stuff came off, including all the poles. ... It was just hanging on. It was pretty frightening really," Snow Hill resident DeNault Schwartz said.

Brain Clark saw the storm rip off a wall and a canopy from his business, The Classic Chassis. The building was less than a year old, he said.

"It did all this damage in a matter of two minutes. I'm just dumbfounded. I can't hardly believe it," Clark said.

Barbara Lewis was relieved to find mostly downed trees and minor damage in her Snow Hill neighborhood.

"We're not lucky. We're just blessed," Lewis said.