Leader Blues

Friday, April 11, 2008

TOP STORY > >When the tornado hit

Leader staff writer

There’s a sharp right curve on Jacksonville Cato Road in Gravel Ridge that marks the area surrounding the devastation left behind by the April 3 tornado. Road crews are still working to clear the downed trees along the road.

The road continues down a bit before you see a house in the middle of piles of branches and huge tree roots.

It is the home of Ray “Festus” Nebling and his wife, Margie. He said it was around 10 p.m. when they were both in bed, and they heard a boom and then the wind.

Once it was quiet again, he ventured outside to look.

“I had a tree over one end of my house, a tree laying over my barn, a tree laying over the bed of my pickup, and a lot of trees across my driveway. We were sewed in,” said Nebling. “The tornado was bouncing, taking the tops off of trees and moving them 10 to 12 feet.

“Everyone is OK. No one was hurt. Thank God,” Nebling said.

The past week has beenhectic for him as he tried to get things ready for the next storm system that headed this way on Thursday.

The frustration, he said, comes from people stopping and wanting all the fallen trees for firewood. Some people don’t ask, they just take, he said.

Right away, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and members of the Hardriders Biker Church were there to help cut up and clean away the downed trees.

The experience was a little different for Caroline Dunlap of Hidden Creek Road in Gravel Ridge. She wasn’t home at the time of the tornado, and was alerted by her security system company.

“When I got home, the police were right outside, and they advised me not to go into the area, but to wait until daylight because there were power lines and trees down everywhere,” Dunlap said.

The next day, she went back to her house and found that part of the roof was missing and both front windows were blown out.

“It’s not so bad for me. One of my neighbor’s roof is completely gone, and another neighbor lost an entire wall of his house,” she said.

Mason Collier of Loop Road in north Pulaski County was watching TV, saw his neighborhood under the tornado warning, and then the electricity went off. He and his wife then heard the sirens, grabbed their dogs and got in the master closet.

“I heard dead silence. Then, I heard what sounded like a 747 and heard what sounded like cracking bamboo. It was the roof of my house coming off. Then silence again,” said Collier. When he came out of his house, he found his roof across the street.

“But, it was weird. Everything inside the house was OK. When it rained, the ceilings got wet and fell in afterwards,” he said. Still, the tornado twisted the house and will have to be rebuilt.

“I have to say, I was very impressed. Almost immediately, people from Home Depot were there with chain saws, tarps, nails, gloves and pitched right in,” said Collier.

First Baptist Church, the city of Sherwood, the mayor, councilmen and FEMA have all been out to pitch in with the cleanup.

“We came out of it. Nobody got hurt, thank God,” Collier said.