Weather

Residents return to storm-ravaged Raleigh community

Posted April 18, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2011 7:10 a.m. EDT

— Residents of the Stony Brook North mobile home park watched and waited Monday as Raleigh police allowed them to re-enter their damaged community for the first time since Saturday's storms.

They went in, 15 people at a time, to gather belongings and view what's left of their homes.

A tornado tore the community apart Saturday, killing three children and leaving about half of the 200 mobile home units there uninhabitable.

Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan asked residents to quickly gather all the belongings they could carry from their units and then hurry back to the gates, where about 200 other residents were waiting.

He thanked residents for their patience over the last two days while a tree removal company, fire crews and Progress Energy worked to clear debris and ensure that the area was safe for people to walk through.

Dolan praised the Raleigh utility's "Herculean effort" in fixing electrical boxes and power lines and said they expect to restore power Tuesday. He said it would still be a few days before it's safe for residents whose homes were not destroyed to move back in.

Vickie Lewis, who lives in Stony Brook North, which is off Brentwood Road in northeast Raleigh, has no idea whether her home is still standing.

"I haven't seen my home since I left to go to work Saturday at 3 o'clock," she said.

Daniel Alvarez was outside when the storm hit. He took cover under a porch and watched as the tornado whipped past.

"I saw just a black cloud right there in front of me. A big, dark cloud," Alvarez said. "It was coming toward us and just everything turned white, with wind kicking in really hard."

Seven-year-old Angelica Manriquez said the roof on her home had completely blown off in tornadic winds.

"Another house was on our house, so that's what saved us," she said.

Manriquez went to Brooks Elementary School with two of the three boys – cousins Daniel Quistian Nino, 9, and Osvaldo Coronado, 8 – who were killed when a large tree crashed down on their mobile home. Kevin Coronado, 3, was also killed.

Jermaine Wiggins, who lived across from the home where the boys were killed, said he had damage to his roof, floor and walls, but he left before the storm hit.

He knew Quistian Nino and the Coronado brothers from the Stony Brook North community.

"I played with those kids just about every other day. They'd be out riding their little scooters," Wiggins said.

Dolan said the three children are the only confirmed deaths in Raleigh, but some residents say they believe there might be more.

"We're just being told three children. We know as a community we've lost more," said Stony Brook North resident Shannon Coulter. "We did see body bags come out, and we're a little unclear."

A fourth child, Yaire Quistian Nino, was listed in critical condition Tuesday morning at UNC Hospitals.

Dolan said it's possible there are bodies that haven’t been recovered inside the community, but he had no information to suggest that was the case.

"In tragedies like this, natural disasters, it does happen that we do later find deceased," he said.

Volunteers from Wake County schools and local churches were on hand Monday, distributing supplies to displaced families.

"Families need toiletries, diapers and wipes," said Wake County schools counselor Susan Connor. "We had an infant that didn't have a crib."

Terry Foley, a volunteer with Catholic Parish Outreach, described a "buzz of activity" in the community.

"They seem to be really grateful for what we were able to give out – bananas, orange juice, things like that," she said.

Officials said Monday that damage in Wake County from the weekend storms is at least $65 million. In Raleigh alone, 63 homes were destroyed, and another 185 had major damage, a city official said.