Twister damages homes

March 7, 2011 11:25:40 AM PST
A cold front moving through central North Carolina kept meteorologists and emergency responders busy Sunday night as needed rain mixed with tornado warnings and severe weather.

A half-dozen counties were under severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings.

Heavy winds uprooted trees and dropped power lines in Chatham, Wake, Sampson, Franklin, Halifax, Warren and Wilson counties.

The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that small tornados touched down in Rolesville and near Stantonsburg in Wilson County.

Meteorologist Jeff Orrock said the Rolesville twister passed quickly with winds reaching 70-75 miles-per-hour.

An ABC11 news crew on the scene found trees snapped in half and damage to some homes on Main Street.

At one home, power lines fell on the roof of a house sparking a fire. An elderly man inside was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Eyewitness Steve Taylor says he saw 86-year-old Cecil Bell's nephew, a minister, rush in to help him. Bell suffered smoke inhalation, burns to his face, scratches and bruises. He is expected to be okay and is recovering at WakeMed.

"Apparently there was smoke coming out of the house. The minister ran over to the house, tried to get him out, a passerby stopped to help. From what I understand, as they tried to get the door there was another explosion, don't know if it was gas or what, but it knocked him off his feet," he said.

Taylor says the fire started moments after he saw storm clouds forming and was doing what he could to protect his family.

"I grabbed my 2 and a 3-year-old, threw them down in the hallway," he said. "Got my wife to huddle over top of them and could still look out the window and see the wind blow debris and tree limbs and that's when we got really scared. We knew the wind was peaking. I knew if there was anything going to explode, that's where it was going to happen."

And at the home of Rolesville Town Commissioner Frank Hodge, shingles, fence posts and other items were scattered everywhere after he says he saw storm clouds forming.

"And I just heard things like chunks of ice hitting the window, so I thought it was hail," Hodge said. "By the time we got up, it was just the wind and I went to the front and we saw the damage there and it was gone."

Authorities say the tornado started at Hodge's 50 acre property.

"One of my granddaughters was out running and she said she saw it coming across the field and it was about 500 foot up in the air from what she could tell, just the swirl of debris," Hodge said. "So it's pretty scary."

Other parts of North Carolina also saw wacky weather Sunday. One to two inches of snow were reported in the mountains and some areas reported three to five inches of rain during the storm that started early Saturday morning.

Asheville set a 24-hour rainfall record for the day with 2.14 inches of rain, breaking the old record of 1.66 set in 1967.

Flooding was reported in McDowell and Caldwell counties.

Dry weather returns to start the workweek on Monday along with some sunshine boosting highs into the upper 50s to low 60s.

Another front gives us another shot for some rain by Thursday.

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