NWS: Straight-line winds damage Robeson homes

May 11, 2009 8:10:43 PM PDT
National Weather Service officials have ruled out the possibility that a tornado touched down in Robeson County south of Fayetteville, NC Monday morning.Click here for pictures

Still, the weather was fierce. The National Weather Service says strong thunderstorms caused straight-line winds up to 125 miles an hour. That's comparable to an EF 3 tornado.

Video from Chopper 11 HD showed massive damage to neighborhoods after the severe weather passed through the area.

According to Robeson County Manager Ken Windley, two homes are demolished and five to six others are badly damaged off Sadie Drive.

Emergency management officials say the store did nearly $1 million in damage.

Trees were uprooted and tossed on houses. Pictures from the air showed massive oak trees thrown to the ground like toys.

Resident Jerry Rienks just moved into his house two weeks ago, and says he came home to find two huge trees had crumpled in his roof.

"I thought of my God, what kind of mess and I going to see," Rienk said. "Then I found my dog was in the back so I got him first before I saw what kind of damage was done to the house."

Nearby, Virginia Britt's home had its roof completely torn off and the rooms are now open to the sky. She marveled at the surgical way the roof was removed, but everything inside is still intact.

"It didn't even break the mirror on the wall or the bulbs," she said as she surveyed her bathroom that now has an unwanted skylight.

Britt and her husband had gone out for breakfast and luckily weren't inside when the storm hit, but her daugher-in-law, Ginger Britt, was at home.

"I knew she was out there in that stuff, they said she had broken bones and some bruises," Britt said.

Family members say she survived cancer and other medical problems. And now they say she has to deal with her mobile home being destroyed. Rescue crews found her in the rubble. She is currently in intensive care at a Lumberton Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The weather came out of a severe storm system that moved through Scotland County and into Robeson. The National Weather Service did not issue a tornado warning at the time, and after reviewing data and damage reports to see if it was a tornado, it concluded that it was not.

"I looked and it was just a dark funnel cloud coming quick, and I ran to the only place I could in this building under a work table, and the building just bowed out," resident Kent Bailey said.

Neighbors and volunteers helped residents clean up and salvage their belongings through the evening. The Red Cross is also working with residents to find them a place to stay.


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