Residents clearing storm damage

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — It looks like Mother Nature went bowling on Newport Drive, knocking down dozens of trees in strike-like fashion Saturday.
In less than a minute, the Farrington Meadows neighborhood, off Old Mocksville Road, was left almost unrecognizable by a tornado that struck Rowan County.
“It looks a lot different when you drive through now,” resident Don Grubb said.
Sarah Presson, who has lived on the street for about 20 years, said yards once filled with trees are now bare.
“We can actually see each other now,” she said.
Presson said the storm’s heavy winds ripped shingles off her house, turned over her well pump, tore the banisters off her front porch and knocked a hole in her dining room. She estimates the total cost of damages to be about $30,000.
Not as bad as Hugo
When the leaves started blowing outside Linda and Ron Beard’s window, they knew it was time to take cover.
“We went to the basement and I said, ‘Oh no, I forgot my tennis shoes,’ so I went back up to get them,” Linda Beard said. “By the time I got back up there it was over. … It couldn’t have lasted more than a minute, it was so quick.”
The Beards have lived in the neighborhood for almost 40 years and haven’t seen such severe damage since Hurricane Hugo struck the area in 1989.
One tree struck their home, causing minor damage to the gutter.
“We’re one of the lucky ones,” Linda said.
About four of their trees were knocked down during the storm. And Ron said the couple won’t be taking any risks in the future.
“We had some trees cut down a few years ago, and there might be a few more coming down now,” he said.
A familiar thud
Nadine Potts was sitting in her living room when she heard a familiar sound that brought her to her feet.
It had been more than three decades since a single tree struck her house at 180 Newport Drive, but the loud thud she heard Saturday was a vivid reminder.
But it wasn’t one tree this time. It was six.
By the time Potts reached the downstairs area where her husband David was, the tornado had passed.
“There was absolutely no warning,” she said. ‘There wasn’t time to get scared, wasn’t time to react.”
When the couple opened their front door, all they saw were trees.
“What amazed us was the direction they fell, they just fell in so many different directions” Nadine said.
The Potts’ home sustained significant damage to the roof, cracks along the ceilings of several rooms inside the house and minor damage to the well.
The roof of their Saturn Vue was caved in and the back and front windows were knocked out, making it undrivable.
Still, Nadine said, it could have been worse.
“You really can’t believe how fortunate we are,” Nadine said. “The tail of the tornado was not on the ground and that was the thing that saved us.”
The couple spent two nights in their motor home until an insurance adjuster deemed the house safe to live in.
Nadine said she’s grateful no one was injured in the storm.
“It’s by the grace of the good Lord that I’m still here,” she said. “If the top floor had gone, I would have gone with it.”
Cleaning up
Nadine’s brother, Leonard Lowman, has been working for days to help his family remove the trees that fell on their home.
“I’m trying to get their lives back to normal as quick as possible,” he said.
Lowman said when he arrived at their home Sunday to lend a hand, he was shocked at what he saw.
“You couldn’t tell a house was here,” he said. “The trees were in here so tight you couldn’t even see it.”
David said friends, family, neighbors, lodge members and fellow church members from First Presbyterian Church have also pitched in throughout the past several days.
“Saws ran from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday,” Nadine said.
The N.C. Division of Highways began working to clear the debris from the roadway Saturday after the tornado passed.
“We opened the road up Saturday and got it to where traffic could get through,” said John Thomason, road maintenence supervisor for the Rowan County branch of the Department of Transportation. “It was impassable until we got here.”
Thomason said his crews will continue clearing the road today.
“They have taken away an amazing amount of debris,” Nadine said.
Thomason said the debris, which is currently in piles at the end of the road, will be run through a wood chipper.
Community support
Grubb said cleaning up after Saturday’s storm would have been much harder without a little help from his neighbors.
He said although highway crews were there to remove debris, each homeowner had to find ways to get the limbs to the end of their driveway.
“Everybody has helped everybody,” he said. “You just can’t beat neighbors when it comes down to it.”
Sarah Presson said the entire neighborhood has banded together to get the area back to normal.
“We’ve worked like dogs for two days to clean up this place,” she said.
Nadine said the day after the tornado hit, a woman and her daughter went through the neighborhood passing out bottled water and doughnuts to those working.
“Folks have been asking what they can do,” she said. “Food and water are really the big need for the people out here working.”
Presson said when her sister-in-law told the Salisbury Domino’s about the damage to the area, they donated 20 pizzas and 10 bottles of soda.
“We set it up in our front yard and everybody came and got pizza,” she said. “You can always count on neighbors to help you out.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.