Hurricanes

Weather Service: EF-3 tornado hit Windsor

Posted August 5, 2020 7:55 a.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2020 5:56 p.m. EDT

— The National Weather Service said Wednesday that a Tuesday morning tornado that wiped out a Windsor neighborhood was an EF-3 storm with winds up to 145 mph.

Sheriff John Holley said Randolph Harrell, 62, and Lethia Ann Edwards, 52, were killed in the storm. Holley couldn't say how many people were injured.

Edwards worked at an assisted living home caring for the elderly, according to her nephew, Steven Swain, and when she was off the clock, she cared for him.

"She was a good cook. I am going to miss her coming to my house, my girlfriend doing her hair, laughing, her smile and stuff," Swain said. "I just can't believe it."

The tornado spun out of Hurricane Isaias at about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday as the hurricane cut rapidly through eastern North Carolina. The tornado obliterated a neighborhood on Morning Road, leaving piles of wood, vehicles, furnishings and belongings across a quarter-mile stretch.

Overall, the tornado was on the ground for about 10 miles and carved a path 600 yards wide, the Weather Service said. It reached maximum intensity as it crossed Morning Road, where its width reached a third of a mile, according to the Weather Service.

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Windsor on Wednesday morning to assess the damage and get an update on the recovery effort.

"I’ve seen some damage before, but this is pretty devastating for your family," Cooper said as he talked with tornado survivors.

The governor also spoke with local officials about getting people needed resources, such as medical and mental health assistance. The people whose homes were destroyed are now in temporary housing, and Cooper said North Carolina needs to invest more in affordable housing, especially to provide shelter during severe weather.

"Sheltering opportunities were provided for people [during Isaias]," he said, "but I will tell you this, affordable housing is a critical issue in our state. I just spoke to our task force that is looking at underserved communities across our state, and housing is an issue that we have to address."

Ten volunteers from Boone-based Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse were in Windsor on Wednesday to help with the recovery, but spokeswoman Alyssa Benson said the organization needs more hands to salvage personal belongings, clear debris, put tarps on roofs and remove downed trees.

Sylvia Saunders needs some help to clear downed trees and other debris from her yard. She said she was awakened early Tuesday by roaring winds and the sound of a tree hitting her house. But she and two others in the home escaped injury.

"We're blessed," Saunders said, adding that the recovery will be "one step at a time."

Benson said volunteers don't need any experience in storm recovery. They just need to meet at 7:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. at Ross Baptist Church, at 1020 Bull Hill Road, and go through a brief orientation before they start cleaning up the site.

"We'll get you prepped and ready and in the field helping families," Benson said. "We'll have experienced team leads in the field to help you get along."

All volunteers will wear masks and gloves.

People interested in helping can call 828-266-5029 or show up at the church.

“We want to just show these families that they are not forgotten, that they are loved by us and by God," Benson said. "I can’t even imagine going through a COVID pandemic and then also losing your home to a tornado like this so we just want to come alongside them, get back on their feet and remind them that we love them.”

More ways to get help, give help

The Food Bank of the Albemarle, which serves Bertie County, is accepting monetary donations online.

On Saturday, Aug. 8, the Good Shephard Food Pantry will host a drive thru-food distribution event at 1008 North King Street in Windsor. Organizer Deborah Freeman said Bertie County residents just need to show their ID between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to get food. The event will be held on the second and third Saturdays of each month.

The Bertie County Humane Society in Windsor is asking for donations of dog food and other supplies.

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