We had bad storms predicted for this past Saturday afternoon, but had no idea how bad they would turn out to be. It was predicted to be a really rainy day with bad thunderstorms in the afternoon. Ella and I ran a few errands in the morning and it was really windy and a little drizzly, but that was it. We went home for a little while, and then the three of us went to the mall and out to lunch, and got home a little after 3pm, the rain hadn't started yet but seemed imminent. Cory was acting really nervous and we could tell the storm was very close, so I took Cory and Ella for a quick walk before, what we were expecting, would be a full afternoon/evening of rain.
We had only been walking about a minute or so when the thunder started, so we turned around ASAP and went back inside. Steve and I were attempting to put Ella down for a nap when it really started to rain and got very windy. The amount of thunder was pretty notable, it was just thunder upon thunder upon thunder. Steve tried to turn the TV on but the satellite signal was lost, so unfortunately we had no idea a tornado was on the way. We watched a lot of the storm from Ella's window, which is at the back of our house. It rained very hard and what was really odd that we noticed, was that at one point, the rain seemed to be coming from all directions at once - it was pounding on the side of the house, swirling away from the house, trees were blowing, all at once. Our power went out and the storm passed, and we figured that was the end of it, just another big spring thunderstorm, and that our power would be back on quickly.
It was hours later before we started to learn the extent of what happened, and a few days before we fully knew. In all, there were about 25 different tornadoes that came through central NC between 2:30 and 5:00 pm. In our area, the tornado traveled from Sanford, where it destroyed a Lowe's store as well as a lot of other damage. It entered Holly Springs from the southwest, and crossed the main road about a quarter-mile from our house, went through the neighborhood behind ours, and then continued through other parts of the town.
It is pretty unbelievable that we were less than 2 minutes away from its path, and had no idea a tornado came through. I think we would have had a better idea if we'd looked out our front windows, since that was facing the direction of the tornado, instead of the back of our house, which was where we'd been.
I did not take any of these pictures, I copied them off our local news site. All of them were taken within a 3 minute distance (in the car) from of our house -
In our town there are houses destroyed and damaged, many trees downed, and power out for extended periods of time, but thankfully no one was killed or seriously injured. After the tornado left Holly Springs, it traveled into Raleigh where it got even stronger. Tragically it caused several deaths, the saddest story being a family that lost 4 children when a tree came through their mobile home; 3 were killed instantly and the 4th, a baby, died a few days later. It is just heartbreaking to imagine the mother, in a closet trying to protect her children and nieces/nephews, and a tree came crashing through where they were.
Our town has worked very hard and cleaned up so much since the weekend, but driving around town, there is still a lot of damage evident. There are cars with trees on top of them, giant trees with roots uprooted, piles of debris. It is crazy to see homes with blue tarps over a missing roof and then right next door, a house with no damage at all. The power company said that the reason it took so long to restore power was because when they would get to the areas to fix the structures, the structures themselves were completely gone, so they had to rebuild them from scratch.
We were so fortunate. A few things were tossed around our yard, but we had zero damage. Several weeks ago a big storm puled apart a piece of our fence, and Steve fixed it and reinforced it from both the inside and outside. Amazingly, the fence survived perfectly. We spent the first night at a friend's house and then the second night at Mom and Glenn's, so we really didn't even go without power for more than a few hours at a time when we were at our house. Our power came back on Monday evening.
I am very grateful for several things from this experience - I know we are fortunate that we got home when we did - had we been even 15 minutes later we may have been on the road caught up in the storm. We were less than prepared since we didn't even realize a tornado was coming and were standing at the window on our second floor watching the storm (eek!), and we are lucky that didn't end up turning into trouble (and lesson learned for future, as we had falsely assumed we had a tornado siren system). We had a place to stay both nights with power and hot water, and were even able to save everything in our freezer.
Unfortunately there are many people who did not fare as well as we did, and my heart goes out to everyone who is still suffering the consequences of the tornadoes. I have heard several people say that they haven't seen anything like this in the area since Hurricane Fran in the late 1990s, which was much worse. Saddest of all are those who lost loved ones or lost everything they owned, and are now left with needing to rebuild their lives. I am very grateful this was not a life-altering experience for us, as it has been for many, but am still certain it is an experience I will not soon forget.