Tough times don’t last; tough people do.
It’s an adage, but one that aptly describes the people gathering to help neighbors in the aftermath of Monday’s storm, which contained an EF-2 tornado, according to the National Weather Service. According to the NWS, an EF-2 tornado is capable of three-second gusts of 111-135 mph.
Upon seeing downed trees and tree limbs, several people expressed surprise once they realized no one was hurt.
“It was the scariest thing I have experienced in my life,” said Gena Boggero, who lives in the Johns Creek Road area. “You know how people say it sounds like a train? When I heard the noise, I knew we were in trouble. It was guttural. Once you hear it, you won’t forget it.”
“There was no indication things were going to be as bad as it was,” she said.
She likely won’t forget the sight of several trees over her driveway either. She wasn’t the only person who couldn’t leave her property either. Once neighbors cleared each others’ driveways, they started checking on the status of other residents.
It wasn’t good. The storm had downed trees throughout the neighborhood, damaging houses and in one case, trapping a woman and her daughter in their car.
Lee Ferqueron, Nate McAllister and Ben Partin coordinated crews that started clearing properties of downed limbs and blasted trees. Ferqueron and McAllister supplied equipment from their businesses to aid in the effort. They took chainsaws of all sizes, tractors and various heavy haulers and got people out.
Crews worked until 8 p.m. Monday and started up again at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. As of mid-Tuesday, they were still working on lots.
A tremendous number of trees are down everywhere, McAllister said, adding that one property had as many as six trees blocking the driveway.
Boggero and Ferqueron toured one driveway that had been lined with downed trees. Ferqueron pointed out a hickory tree that had been blasted by the storm, remarking that wind strong enough to do that could probably have taken the roof of a house.
Upon seeing the damage in the neighborhood, Partain had one thought: “Honestly, that’s a lot of clean up; that was on my mind. I’m glad no one got hurt. It could have been much worse. Everybody was OK, and then we went to work.”
Dana McCravy inspected damage at a rental property. A tree smashed through a kitchen window and skylight, spraying two rooms with shattered glass. No one was home when the storm hit, she said. The tenant was scheduled to return from rehab on Wednesday.
Christy and Pressley Ward weren’t so lucky.
“It was really scary,” Christy said. She and had gotten her daughter, 11-year-old Pressley from school. She said she felt a big boom and trees fell everywhere. One tree hit the engine and the windshield broke.
“It was a loud boom and then the trees were down,” Ward said. “I don’t know if the boom was the storm or the lightning.”
“I told her (Pressley) ‘It’s too late.’ Then the tree hit the car,” she said.
Pressley said the scariest part was looking up and seeing the busted glass above. “I thought I was gonna die.”
They managed to get out through the passenger side door. Fallen trees not only destroyed the car, but also their house. Trees also damaged the house that was undergoing work for them to move into.
Ward said she had called the Red Cross about assistance, but she doesn’t know what will be next.
“We’re OK, a little overwhelmed, but OK,” she said.
Surprisingly, damage was minimal for Greenwood County, according to Emergency Management Coordinator George McKinney and Fire Coordinator Steven Holmes.
They reported seeing three businesses with damage, along with two homes. A Nissan car dealership suffered damage to windows and inventory; signs at a storage facility were damaged, and campers being kept at another storage facility had been blown over by the wind.
For Kerri Hall of Abbeville County, there is little doubt that the storm was a tornado. She was at home with her son when the storm hit.
“You could feel the suction from it as the storm passed over,” she said.
”I was really shocked. I knew it was bad when it happened, but I didn’t understand the extent of the damage until I got out here and walked around,” Hall said.
Her house lost some shingles off the roof. The main damage was to equipment sheds (one lost a roof) and downed trees and fallen limbs, she said. A fence near the house used to have a gate, there used to be a basketball goal and a well house was on the property. Hall said she has no idea where they are now.
Water from the well was shooting into the air until an official with a well company repaired it, she said.
A section of tin roofing from one of the sheds was wrapped around the front passenger section of a truck in the front yard. Hall said from the way debris wrapped around items, there had to be rotation in the storm.
One resident of Old Douglas Mill Road described the condition of his property as “total chaos.” He is staying with a friend as a tree fell on his house and an outbuilding, and other trees littered his yard. Neighbors and friends were busy cutting up the wood so it could be safely removed.
McAllister guessed crews would probably have the Johns Creek Road area by his parents’ house cleared by Tuesday afternoon. As for the whole area, he said that will months to clear away.
Several people expressed amazement at how fast the storm was. Ferqueron said he was at work when he heard about the tornado. By the time he got home barely five minutes later, it had come and gone.