Lee County family farm focuses on cleanup after tornado

Posted April 21, 2011 4:58 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2011 7:20 a.m. EDT

— Before Saturday’s deadly tornadoes, the Thomas family had a thriving soybean, tobacco and cattle farm in Sanford. 

Now, all that is left is fields of twisted metal and other debris.

"The damage is catastrophic," farmer Tim Thomas said.

A tornado plowed directly into the Thomas family farm mangling buildings, tractors and dozens of tobacco barns.

"Anything you needed to farm, we lost it all," Tim's brother, Steve Thomas, said.

The brothers run the farm with Tim's nephew, Wayne Thomas. 

Volunteers spent Thursday finishing what the storm started – clearing away what's left.

Tim Thomas said a 12,000-pound tobacco barn had to be removed from the back part of his storage shelter.

In the middle of all the damage, only an office remains. Wayne Thomas, three co-workers and Thomas' 83-year-old grandfather hid there when the tornado hit.

Tim Thomas said the fact that they weren’t injured is a miracle.

The Thomas family is no focused on cleaning up and rebuilding.

Local farmers who heard about the damage at the Thomas' farm have also turned out to help.

“They are friends of mine, been friends for life, and they came to my rescue,” Tim Thomas said.

Even Wayne Thomas, who also lost his house in the tornado, said he's a lucky man with friends like these.

"It’s a Godsend," he said.

At least 80,000 chickens were killed across the state in Saturday's tornadoes, the state Department of Agriculture said. There is not a final number of how many other livestock were killed.

Since it was early in the year, few crops were in the field to be damaged.

The Department of Agriculture has set-up a website for farmers needing aid.