I live in Sanford NC, a small, quaint Southern town known for bricks and golfing nestled in the heart of the state. And on Saturday, it was devastated by the worst tornado in at least 20 years.
Homes gone. Stores gone. Lives lost. The tornado cut a 10-mile path through our county, starting in the southern part and moving north through the state. The same tornado cell devastated Dunn, Raleigh, Wilson, and Clinton. In total, upward of 100 homes in our town were damaged or completely wiped out.
Thankfully, fatalities were low. Our Lowe's Home Improvement was packed with people, but the employees there got everyone to the back in the seconds before the tornado struck.
Unfortunately, two people did die in our area and countless were lifeflighted out to regional hospitals.
My home is located less than a quarter mile from the tornado's path. Bella and I were out "visitin'" as people in the South do. Bella had to use the bathroom, so we made a pit stop before heading down St. Andrews toward my mama's store for one last visit. I was standing with her in the yard remarking on the wind when a black cloud moved in, bringing hail and vicious winds. We ran inside about the time the power went out.
This happened to St. Andrews Road maybe three minutes after we stopped from going down the road:
*Video shot by our local newspaper, The Sanford Herald
Mere minutes. Seconds. Heartbeats. From driving into the path of total devastation. My breath catches and my eyes water when I think about it, but then I catch myself. My family is whole and unharmed. My home is whole and unharmed. My chickens are whole and unharmed. We have nothing to complain about.
Others were not so lucky. This is the path the tornado ripped through Lee County NC:
You can see the tornado headed toward the Sanford NC Lowe's Home Improvement (completely destroyed) in this video shot by Steven Hoag. We have dubbed him Steven "Nerves of Steel" Hoag. Watch the video, you'll see why.
Our town has already been hard hit by the economic downtown, including one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and burgeoning homeless population. One of the town's largest employers -- which also employs my Mountain Man -- sustained massive damage. We do not know whether hundreds or thousands will be jobless.
As of this moment, there are still thousands without power and many families are sleeping emergency shelters until they figure out what to do. Still more are sleeping in makeshift tents next to what used to be there homes because the looting has begun.
If it is within your ability, please consider mailing a donation to our local Red Cross office at 507 N. Steele Street, Sanford NC 27330. Checks should be made payable to Lee County NC Red Cross. The funds will put my community members in homes, rebuild several local businesses, and repair schools, homes, and other crucial structures. If you do not direct the support directly to that address, it will not be applied in our county.
If you aren't in a position to give monetary donations, please pray for my neighborhood, my community, my state as we try to recover from the destruction. Pray and then spread the word to those you know.
We need all the help we can get.
***To remain updated on the situation as it unfolds, follow SocialSanford on Facebook.