Weather Service confirms multiple tornadoes

May 7, 2009 5:07:49 AM PDT
The National Weather Service has confirmed that tornadoes touched down TuesdayAreas in Johnston and Wilson counties were hardest hit Tuesday afternoon just as many began their afternoon commute home.

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Deputies in Wilson County reported seeing multiple tornadoes touch down in the Rock Ridge community. At least eight to 10 homes are damaged in the area of Rock Ridge School Road and Sadie Road. One of the hardest hit areas is the West Hornes Church Road area.

National Weather Service offcials surveyed the damaged Wednesday. They determined an EF2 category tornado is responsible for the damage along Rock Ridge School Road in Sims.

Officials also assessed the damage in southern Nash and Johnston throughout the day and determined one EF1 tornado hit an area of Johnston County and destroyed 30 buildings.

One person suffered minor injuries.

Video from the area shows homes are missing their roofs and power lines ripped down.

Residents returned to the area to salvage what they could, but some like Nyoka Hinant found there wasn't much to save.

"It's devastating, I've lost everything, everything I worked 37 years for is gone," Hinant said.

According to Lynnwood Roberson, who oversees Wilson and Nash counties for the Red Cross, authorities have opened a shelter at Rock Ridge Elementary School on 6605 Rock Ridge School Rd., for those impacted by the tornado in the area.

Roberson said so far, they are helping one family and there are other families who may need assistance from the Bailey, N.C. area. The family is being put up in a local hotel. They will also get assistance, food, other provisions.

Over in Johnson County, about 30 buildings are damaged including homes, barns, and sheds.

The Red Cross has fed at least 30 people so far. No one stayed in its shelter Tuesday night as most have family to stay with.

Officials say much of the damage is along Highways 96 and 39 in the Emit and Flower Hill Communities.

Many homes were damaged in the area and power lines were reported down on Highway 96 near Antioch Church Road. The Johnston County fire chief says houses were damaged along a 6 mile path around Highway 39.

"It was raining real hard at first and then it got real black and then everything just started shooting straight up there was all kind of debris flying in the air," storm victim Jim Reinhart said.

Sheriff Steve Bizzell said there is also damage on Highway 231 near the Johnston/Nash County line. He said two deputies witnessed the tornadoes touch down.

The tornado took out power lines, twisted tree trunks and ripped roofs off of homes.

Johnson County Emergency Management also reported minor damage at the Antioch Fire Department.

"We could see the storm coming over the horizon," Chief Kendall Hocutt said. "We continued to watch it and we could see the rotation in the storm. We shut down the bay doors and had the guys get up under all the trucks."

There were no reported injuries in the area, but there is a lot of structural damage and at least one home was destroyed.

And further south in Duplin County, officials say another twister damaged a chicken farm.

In Wake County, there were also several reports across the county of funnel clouds. A flash flood warning was also issued for the area as storms swept through.

The first reports of possible tornadoes from the massive storm came from the Apex area.

"The circulation got tighter and tighter and then the clouds started dropping down beneath the sky, Apex resident Lawrence Long said."It never looked like it hit the ground. I was kind of scared; it looked real scary there for a while. But the funnel cloud looked like it came down about halfway to the ground."

At one point, on the north side of the Beltline, a wispy cloud appeared to twist toward the ground, but it disappeared quickly.

Then, as bolts of lightning shot to the ground and thunder roared, two disc shaped clouds rotated over Brentwood Road for several minutes.

When it finally raced off toward Kightdale, Wendell and Zebulon the back end of the storm brought bands of torrential rain and wind and blinded drivers on the beltline.

The heavy rain backed up storm drains all over Raleigh closing one lane of Atlantic Avenue. The rain was especially heavy to the west causing flash flooding on the N.C. State campus and on Blue Ridge Road as well as Lake Boone Trail.

Lightning from the severe storms knocked loose a football-sized piece of granite from the university's bell tower, sending fragments to the ground Tuesday evening.

Campus Police Chief Tom Younce said officers roped off the 115-foot tower until repairs can be made.

As the storm moved over the eastern part of Wake County, it broke up and all tornado warnings were lifted.


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