Tornadoes devastate parts of Perquimans, Pasquotank, Chowan Counties

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by 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on April 26, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 27 at 12:08 AM

ELIZABETH CITY, NC -- People who live in Meadowland Mobile Home Park are assessing the damage from an apparent tornado that hit the area Friday night.

Pasquotank County officials say damaging straight line winds from what appear to be 2 separate tornadoes caused major damage to many homes, and numerous others have been destroyed.

The National Weather Service confirmed EF-2 tornadoes touched down in Pitt and Beaufort counties. A final assessment of damage across the state was expected late Saturday.

Front steps are all that's left in place on one lot after the storm picked up a home and tossed it on its side. Items that were inside the home were strewn around the property on Peartree Road.

Other homeowners in the park say they were lucky to escape with just a little damage - things like broken windows or siding blown or sheds blown over.

Michael Gay was stunned at what he saw.

"A big white cloud, fog-like, blowing in so hard you couldn't see 50 feet. Everything was just in the air blowing," he said.  "I was looking at the back door when all this was going on. My wife was in the tub. I just couldn't pull myself away from not looking at it."

Residents say they started taking cover from the tornadoes around 8 p.m. The Spellman family said it rode out the storm in a closet.

"It was like a freight training coming," said Clarence Spellman. "We just stayed in there and prayed until it was over."

Power was still out at homes in the mobile home park and others along Peartree Road.

County officials say five people in the county were injured and taken to the hospital, one person had major trauma injury and the others were being treated for minor injuries.

Downed power lines are creating hazardous conditions and law enforcement has closed several roads within Elizabeth City and in the county, said Christy Saunders, spokeswoman for Pasquotank County.

Electric utilities caution that all downed power lines should be treated as live, energized lines and to stay away from them.

County damage assessment teams spent Saturday morning working in the affected areas.

Damage in portions of Perquimans County also was extensive.

“This is my home. I’ve been here for 54 years. I’m not leaving now," Clyde Spellman told 13News Now as he stood on Parkers Lane.

Members of Spellman's family have lived on the street for 7 decades.

From inside his bathroom, Spellman heard hail pelting against his house and felt the floor beneath him moving.

Just down the street, his uncle, Linwood Parker, felt the winds pick up his 50-year-old house off its foundation. They also blew him across his living room as he tried to shut the front door.

“It pushed me back," Parker explained. "All the way back, all the way back. Pushed me right on back. I think I fell right down here.”

The family lost 8 homes as a result of the storm. No one was hurt badly.

“I know it’s just a material thing and that it can be replaced," Spellman said. "I just thank God I’m still living. I thank God I’m still living! I could’ve been gone, but I’m still here. I’m still here.”

Tom Ponte with Perquimans County Emergency Management said crews had to rescue some people from their homes.

Ponte told 13News Now the hardest hit areas were Snug Harbor and Chapanoke. 10 homes were destroyed, 15 had moderate damage, and 14 had minor damage.

More than 1700 people in Perquimans County were without power late Saturday. Ponte said it could be days before crews are able to restore electricity to some people.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at the Perquimans County Senior Center, but no one affected by the storm was staying there. Everyone was able to find shelter with family and/or friends.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield said teams will be out surveying damage. Specifically, they'll be looking to see if damage indicates there were tornado touchdowns and if so where they rank on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is scheduled to tour the area around Burnt Mill Road in Edenton, Chowan County Sunday afternoon.

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