Twister times two

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

A strong line of thunderstorms that moved through Hertford and Bertie counties Friday morning spawned at least two confirmed tornados.

Ironically, it was exactly five years ago (Friday, May 9, 2003) that an EF 1 tornado and hail caused damage in portions of Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties.

This time around, damage was mainly confined to the Colerain area of Bertie County as well as the Harrellsville area in Hertford County.

Mike Montefesco, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va., told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Friday the morning thunderstorms did spawn two twisters. He said the first had not of yet been classified on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, one that measures wind speed and gusts inside a tornado. That twister caused damage two miles northwest of Colerain.

The second tornado was a stronger, rating an EF 2 (winds of 113-157 mph). Montefesco said that twister, four miles southeast of Harrellsville, was one-quarter mile wide at its base. It downed trees and caused damage to two homes as well as several barns and outbuildings.

Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins reported that one residence, located at the intersection of Maye’s Landing Road and NC 45 near Colerain, sustained damage. Atkins said one person was at the residence at the time, but was not injured. He added some outbuildings on the property were damaged. The damage to the home has left it uninhabitable at the current time.

On Glover’s Crossroad Road, north and west of Colerain, the tornado ripped apart an equipment shelter at Beasley Farms. It also twisted a nearby cedar tree, causing it to topple onto the roadway where it was littered with debris from the farm shelter. That same debris blew across the road into an adjacent farm field.

By mid-morning, workers with the NC Department of Transportation were at the scene, attempting the clear the roadway and allow it to reopen to traffic.

Nearby on the Buncomb Road, Vandy Miller said a powerful thunderstorm came through at around 8:45 a.m. He said the wind was “swirling around.”

“It just missed my chicken houses,” Miller said, adding that Perdue workers were at those houses Friday morning ‘catching’ his latest flocks for processing.

The only visible damage at the Miller residence was a toppled pine tree in the front yard. “It could have been a lot worse,” Miller said. “It’s nothing like what they had up in Suffolk last month. I really feel for those folks.”

Also in the Colerain area, there were confirmed reports of damage to four chicken houses, a farm irrigation system, a travel trailer and a few vehicles.

Hertford County suffered more than $150,000 in damages due to the storm, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Charles Jones.

While there was a large amount of damage, Jones said there had been no injuries reported due to the tornado.

A vast majority of the damage was concentrated on the Swain’s Mill Road. Jones said an unoccupied dwelling was heavily damaged, including the roof being removed. He also said there were two chicken houses that lost their roof.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation had four vehicles working in the area and all were damaged, with one suffering the brunt of the harm.

“We also had several outbuildings that were damaged throughout the area,” Jones reported.

Electrical lines where down in the surrounding area and some were still not operational as of 3 p.m.

“They are working on the light lines now and hoping to have everyone’s power restored soon,” Jones said. “Embarq is also in the area working to restore their service.”

Swain’s Mill Road was impassable after the storm and was closed due to the removal of debris from the roadway.

Jones also indicated that Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan would be stepping up patrols in the area to prevent looting as people sort through any damage.

(R-C News Herald Staff Writer Thadd White contributed to this story.)