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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hard work, prayers follow after tornadoes

The sound of chainsaws, the smell of gasoline and an occasional prayer of thanks filled the air Sunday in northeast Charlotte, where a tornado destroyed several homes but caused only minor injuries.

The EF2 tornado’s winds reached 130 mph and hit with no warning at about 3 a.m. Saturday in neighborhoods near Reedy Creek Park and Harrisburg around southern Cabarrus County. It was part of a system that killed at least 38 people in five states across the South and Midwest last week. Three children were injured in Mecklenburg. At one point Saturday, nearly 14,000 were without power. No injuries were reported in Cabarrus County.

Those who survived the tornado in Charlotte described waking up to the sound of thunder, trees falling and homes being flattened.

As they waited for help to arrive, some ran from door to door, making sure their neighbors were OK. Others worried about more severe weather causing more damage or the smell of gas leaking from a destroyed home.

That initial panic contrasted dramatically with the scene in northeast Charlotte on Sunday.

Busloads of volunteers from Charlotte churches and the Red Cross helped people remove debris. Neighbors knocked on doors just to see if people needed anything. People shared power tools, wheelbarrows and cups of water. The biggest problems police have had to deal with after the storm were traffic-related, said Deputy Chief Katrina Graue, who surveyed the damage on Sunday.

On Sunday, many still-jittery people took stock of a storm that knocked down a massive tree and flattened an unoccupied house, but left a home next door with only minor roof damage and panicked residents.

“This was a miracle from God,” said Marbeluz Rowe, who woke up early Saturday to the sound of an empty house across the street collapsing. She’s lived at her house on Brookstead Meadow Court for seven years.

“See one of the trees. It was thrown like when you’re done with Christmas and you throw away the Christmas tree. But (the tornado) barely touched us. That makes you think God gave us another chance to live. That was God’s hands on us.”

As she spoke, more than 10 of her neighbors were in her backyard, helping to remove part of the fallen tree.

Large piles of what used to be trees lay stacked on sidewalks. Blue tarps were nailed over holes in roofs or walls on more than a dozen homes.

In Mecklenburg, 132 houses were damaged, including eight with major damage and three that were destroyed, according to the American Red Cross, which is helping some of the people affected.

Four homes were destroyed in Cabarrus, and 49 were damaged.

The Red Cross doled out supplies to people at their homes, but elected to close a temporary shelter on Sunday because of a lack of need.

Three children were injured, including a 7-year-old boy who was sucked from his bed and ended up on Interstate 485 — nearly 400 feet away.

Dahimi Montejo, 16, who lives a few doors down, said she remembers seeing the boy and his siblings playing in the yard when she would return home from school.

“It’s just scary how close it was,” she said of the tornado. “That house is gone … but all it did was take our grill.”

Montejo and her neighbors got electricity back early Sunday.

But residents are looking at varying lengths of time before their houses are back to normal. Most of the affected homes had minor roof damage or some broken windows.

But at least two homes on one street were destroyed. Others had major structural damage and had “unsafe” signs glued to parts of them.

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