CLEMMONS, N.C. — Clemmons residents Friday surveyed the damage caused by a tornado that touched down in their Forsyth County community in the dark hours of Thursday night, damaging or demolishing nearly 100 homes.
The tornado hit Forsyth County with gusts that were estimated to have reached 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The severe weather was part of a storm system that killed one person, injured three and damaged scores of homes and businesses across several counties.
WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said a three-dimensional radar image of the storm that hit Clemmons showed an updraft that extended almost 40,000 feet up into the center of the storm.
"Any system that has an updraft that strong is capable of producing severe weather – at the very least, damaging straight-line winds," Fishel said.
Wesley Whaley, 14, of Clemmons, said he saw his young life “flash in front” of him.
“Everything just started blowing up and sinking in. It was scary,” Whaley said.
Whaley said his family went to the basement during the storm. After the tornado, debris trapped them in a corner. Forsyth County emergency workers rescued them.
Dave Parker, also of Clemmons, said his daughter-in-law and grandchildren ran to a closet to escape the storm.
“She ran and grabbed the boys and went to a closet that was under the stairs going to the second floor. Just as she got in there, the whole house just departed,” Parker said.
A second tornado cut a three-mile path through Greensboro on Thursday night. That tornado was a category EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, meaning the funnel was packing winds estimated to be between 111 and 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm knocked vehicles off Interstate 40 and tossed Federal Express cargo planes about at Piedmont Triad International Airport.
The tornadoes, which killed one person and injured three others, were part of a storm system that swept through the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic states late Thursday and early Friday.
Gov. Mike Easley sent damage assessment teams to Guilford, Forsyth and Davie counties. Local officials also contacted the federal government to request financial assistance.
Easley plans an aerial tour of the damaged areas Saturday. After it, he will meet with local officials and emergency responders to discuss storm damage.