Tornado touches down in Siler City, no injuries

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/26/19

SILER CITY ­— By Josh Smith’s estimation, Friday afternoon’s tornado made a specific impression on the land surrounding Community Baptist Church in Siler City.

A U-shaped …

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Tornado touches down in Siler City, no injuries

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Posted

SILER CITY ­— By Josh Smith’s estimation, Friday afternoon’s tornado made a specific impression on the land surrounding Community Baptist Church in Siler City.

A U-shaped one.

“Just miraculous what the Lord did for our church,” said Smith, the church’s youth pastor. “This storm, where it started, it literally made a U-shape all the way around the boundary of our church property. Thankfully we didn’t have any damage anywhere on (the) property.”

Lasting around three minutes and creating winds up to 105 miles per hour, Friday’s tornado damaged roofs of several homes and downed power poles and power lines, but there were no fatalities or injuries.

Steve Newton, Chatham County’s director of emergency management, told the News + Record that the tornado likely started up southwest of the church and traveled northeast, going through a pasture on Eden Hills Road and likely used the terrain as a ramp, traveling over U.S. Highway 421 in the air on its way to Orange County.

“For us, conditions were ripe for it,” Newton said.

The National Weather Service began sending out tornado watches on Friday morning, tweeting out a notification at 10:30 a.m. for parts of Virginia and South Carolina and most of central North Carolina. The NWS issued a tornado warning for Siler City to last until 3:15 p.m. Friday, causing Smith to keep an eye out.

“It was just quick,” he said. “It was strange because the first warning was supposed to expire at 3:15. So at 3:10, we’re feeling everything’s fine. Then they extended it to 3:45. I had been standing out in the carport just watching. And then 3:37, 3:38, there it was. Really no kind of warning, it was there.”

Smith and his family live near the church, so they heard the tornado roll through the area. Smith’s son Ryan was even interviewed by WRAL-TV about the storm.

Once the tornado passed, Smith and the church staff put out a call on the church’s notification service for help. At 8 a.m. Saturday, more than three dozen people showed up at Community Baptist for clean-up.

“We had everything from kids to senior citizens running rakes, chainsaws,” Smith said. “One gentleman brought a truck and a skid steer to help us with some of the biggest stuff. Within a couple hours, we had our church clean.”

The group then went to work on nearby houses and yards. Smith said some neighbors of his had trees on their houses, with one “waiting to see if their house is going to be condemned.”

Emergency responders and members of the Chatham County Emergency Management department joined N.C. Department of Transportation workers to help clean-up around the area. Newton said he went on-site once suspicions arose that the storm was a tornado. Once people’s safety was confirmed, they went on to “cut and shove,” moving trees out of the roadway.

Newton said there were two homes with “significant damage” with several accessory buildings like sheds also receiving damage. He said this tornado was “pretty consistent” with those he’s seen in the past, but added it’s not as routine for those who feel the effects.

“It was significant for the folks that were in it, in harm’s way,” he said.

Smith said he was encouraged to see the community’s response in the clean-up efforts.

“Church is so much more than meeting inside four walls on Sunday,” he said. “That’s a good start, but it’s about reaching out and helping people in our time of need.”

On Sunday, Chatham County sent out a reminder of how residents can deposit yard debris by bringing it to the Chatham County Solid Waste & Recycling Main Office, 28 County Services Road, Pittsboro. Debris is accepted from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. County collection centers do not accept yard debris. Items accepted as yard waste include grass clippings, trees, limbs, stumps with no excess dirt and untreated and unpainted wood and wood pallets. The charge to dispose of waste is $20 a ton, with a $2 minimum.

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