‘Freight train’ roars through neighborhood

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

LEWISTON – It was a sight Monica Cousins said would forever be etched in her mind….a tornado bearing down on her Piney Woods Road home.

Fortunately for Cousins and her husband Ken, they got out of harm’s way in the nick of time as their single-wide mobile home now sits in complete ruin.

“We were walking out the door when the storm was coming,” Monica said as she spoke from the front yard of a neighbor’s home that wasn’t severely damaged by the Sunday evening storm. “I looked back that way (pointing to the west) and saw a funnel cloud. I shouted to my husband that it was time to go.”

That funnel turned out to be an EF-2 tornado, one capable of packing winds up to 137 mph. Meanwhile, the couple made a beeline for the home of Ken’s mother in Lewiston. Their two children, ages 8 and 5, were at the home of another relative when the storm struck.

“It was a wise move for us to get out of there,” Mrs. Cousins said. “We’ve got our lives. What we lost, which was everything, can be replaced, but you can’t replace a life.”

Nearby, Zelda Cousins said she was watching a TV show when the storm caught her attention.

“It seemed it wouldn’t stop thundering,” she noted. “I changed the TV to the local news and that’s when I learned what was headed our way.”

Cousins got her two children, ages 14 and 7, and left the home, just minutes before the storm struck. She and the children sought safety at her mother’s home in Roxobel.

“I’ve got damage to the roof and the outside walls of my home,” she said. “Hopefully I can get in there and salvage what I can.”

While John Gilliam’s home on Piney Woods Road was spared, suffering only minor damage, that didn’t prevent neither he nor his wife from seeking shelter inside their bathroom.

“We kept hearing a noise that sounded like a freight train off in the distance,” Gilliam recalled. “It kept getting louder and louder to the point where I knew it was a tornado.”

Gilliam and his wife made it to the bathroom where she got in the tub and he sat on the floor adjacent to her.

“I could feel the floor shaking,” Gilliam said. “The wind roared for about five minutes and it was all over.”

Exiting his home, Gilliam looked in horror across the road towards the home of his neighbor, Horace Johnson.

“The roof was gone on his house,” Gilliam said, “but he’s okay.”

Other damage to homes and vehicles was evident along a half-mile stretch of Piney Woods Road. Luckily, no serious injuries were reported.