© Brad Coville, Wilson Times
Stantonsburg took a hard strike from an apparent tornado late Saturday afternoon.
About seven houses along R.B. Avenue and Moyton Drive received major damage and some are beyond repair.
The Stantonsburg Police Department, Wilson County Emergency Management, firefighters, the Wilson County Sheriff's Office and the American Red Cross all responded to the emergency scene.
Judy Watson helped guide customers to the back of the Piggly Wiggly store in town as the storm approached. Her husband, Robert, who owns the store with her, was at their home on Saratoga Street when the storm hit.
"I saw the funnel cloud as it was leaving the area," Robert said. "It was an intense moment."
Their carport has been ripped away from their home. The whole end of their home's roof was lifted up by winds. You can spot cracks of daylight from inside the house where the ceiling became unhinged from the wall. Housing insulation litters the area where the carport used to stand. The carport itself has been reduced to dozens of shredded boards.
They know it could be a while before they can stay again at the home they've lived at since 1995.
Robert talked to insurance officials just after the storm.
"It's pretty severe," he said.
Judy actually witnessed the tornado from the grocery store.
"I saw it just as plain as day," Judy said. "Just like you see it on TV. You could see all the debris in the air. I hollered out, 'Everybody get to the back of the store -- it's a tornado.'"
There were 12 customers and six employees at the store at the time.
Assessing the Damage
Stantonsburg Police Chief John Hunt said law enforcement patrolled neighborhoods throughout the weekend for extra protection and are doing everything possible to help residents hit by the severe storm that swept through that area.
Hunt talked to residents to help them after the storm. He said they would work to help residents cope and also work to assess the damage and put residents in contact with agencies such as the American Red Cross.
"We'll be providing services 24 hours," Hunt said.
Before dark set in on Saturday, residents flocked to the streets to find out what had happened. Streets were closed to traffic and became makeshift pedestrian walkways. Dozens and dozens of residents crowded onto the streets along with the fire trucks, Red Cross vehicles and Emergency Management trucks.
Power lines were down in some areas of town, but power had been restored in most parts.
Residents throughout the county jammed Saratoga Street to try to get a look at the damage.
A command center has been set up in town.
Wilson County Emergency Management Director Gordon Deno said Stantonsburg was the only area in the county to receive significant storm damage. He was on the scene working with emergency responders and assessing the damage.
"There won't be any power back on to this one," Deno said.
He pointed out another house that appeared uninhabitable.
"Roof structure torn away," on one home, he said.
"This one blew back off its foundation. It's sitting catercorner on its foundation," Deno said. "They are extremely fortunate."
"What we're seeing appears to be circular with the damage," Deno said, although damage is damage whether it's from a tornado or straight-line winds.
The tornado warning went out at 5:13 p.m. on Saturday.
"I'm glad nobody is hurt," Deno said. "I hope more people will realize what weather can do."
Deno urges residents to sign up for the Code Red weather warnings. In this case, a tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service.
The Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting six individuals from several families whose homes suffered damage, officials said.
The families will receive overnight shelter from the American Red Cross thanks to the generosity of local donors, officials said. Chapter staff and volunteers began casework and client advocacy Sunday.
The Red Cross also provided meals and snacks to residents and emergency response workers at the scene over the weekend.