The National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed that severe damage in a small area along Longbottom Road in Traphill late Monday afternoon resulted from a tornado.
The determination resulted from NWS personnel from Blacksburg, Va., visiting the area Tuesday to observe the damage.
The NWS reported that the damage was caused by an EF1 tornado, with maximum wind speeds of 100-105 mph.
“The tornado first touched down at around 5:30 p.m. (Monday) on Greenstreet Mountain Road, just south of Longbottom Road between Abshers and Joynes. It tracked northward toward Stone Mountain State Park, destroying 14 outbuildings and doing at least minor damage to three homes,” the NWS reported.
A large oak tree was uprooted near the initial touchdown point. There was intermittent tree damage in the southern part of Stone Mountain State Park as well.”
Traphill Fire Chief Robert Wood said damage primarily was in an area near the intersection of Longbottom and Greenstreet Mountain roads. Downed trees caused power outages.
Wood said the Wilkes Communications Center dispatched Traphill firefighters a little before 5:30 p.m. Monday. Mountain View, McGrady and Austin fire departments assisted.
Firefighters removed trees and provided other assistance until after midnight, working part of the time in heavy rain.
Wood said trees were blown over and hit the homes of Ray Kennedy and his mother, Maude Kennedy, as well as the nearby Mary McDaniel home.
Wood said eight or nine farm sheds and equipment on the Kennedy farm were heavily damaged.
Maude Kennedy said it was the worst storm damage she had ever seen. Mrs. Kennedy said a large pecan tree and many other large trees around her home were toppled.
Firefighters removed enough of a particularly large tree that fell on the McDaniel home to temporarily cover holes in the roof with tarps.
Mrs. McDaniel said she was changing the dining room tablecloth when the storm struck and the tree fell on the back part of her home.
“It happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to think about what was happening,” she said. “I really didn’t realize that the tree had fallen on the house at first. My son, Bobby, was working on a tractor nearby, and he started yelling to see if I was okay. It’s a wonder the tractor wasn’t blown over on him.”
She said, “I’ve had a lot of compliments over the years about how nice my house looks. People have pulled into the driveway and told me it was the nicest looking house they had ever seen. It doesn’t look that good now.”
One of the interested spectators at the McDaniel house was Keith Sidden, who lived in the house as a child.
“Everyone has been saying this (pin oak) tree is 200 years old,” he said. “It’s 56 years old because it was planted when I lived here.”
A mere 15 feet away from the root ball of the oak was the pen in which Mrs. McDaniel’s dog, Janie, stays. The 15-year-old dog, who is blind and deaf, was not injured.
Mrs. McDaniel’s daughter-in-law, Sandra, who lives nearby, said, “It sounded like a freight train, just like everyone says. I heard it and I looked out the window and saw this black cloud. It tore down my fence, but it didn’t damage my home. But I watched it go up through the holler with stuff flying all over.”
She said the storm came through at 4:30, adding “the tornado watch for this area expired at 4:30, so I quit watching the sky at that point...and then this happened.”
Damage at Kennedy farm
The most severe damage was across Longbottom Road from Mrs. McDaniels’ home, on the farm of Ray and Beverly Kennedy. While damage to the house was limited to broken glass in the front storm door, the storm left a wide swath of destruction behind their home and for several hundred yards through the nearby woods, where trees were left splintered on the ground.
A new 30-foot-by-50-foot hay shed was destroyed. The metal roofing, trusses and framing lumber were blown away, landing on an adjacent hill and in a nearby pond. Only the bales of hay and one support post were left at the site.
An abandoned chicken house nearby, which was being used for the storage of farm equipment, was destroyed as most of the roofing metal was blown away. Part of the roof on a large barn for livestock and hay 300 yards away was peeled back. A small windmill that was used to pump water from the pond was blown over, and the blades twisted.
A 16-foot livestock trailer was blown 150 feet from where it had been parked, landing upside down and crumpled against the chicken house. A horse trailer close to the house was moved 40 feet by the wind but remained upright. The Kennedys said that nine storage sheds on the property were demolished, and two others were heavily damaged.
One of the Kennedy’s daughters, 19-year-old Christin, was at the family’s store, 200 yards from her home, when the storm hit.
“My dad and I and some others were playing cards when we heard a big noise,” she said. “We looked out the window and saw the wind swirling around. It probably only lasted for 30 seconds or a minute, but it seemed longer.”
Ray Kennedy said he first thought that the damage was limited to the uprooted tree at the McDaniel home.
“I saw that, and I checked on my mother (Maude), who lives beside me to make sure she was okay. It wasn’t until after that when I was able to go out in the field behind our house and see what had happened.”
There was heavy rain in other parts of Wilkes County late Wednesday afternoon and night, but no flooding was reported.