SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – Several storm victims in Smithfield said they fared much better than they expected to when winds whipped through their neighborhood.
Strong winds and heavy rain hit a portion of Highway 301 not far from downtown Wednesday evening, toppling trees and tearing through the cinder blocks and sheet metal of an auto repair garage. A county building inspector condemned the building after deeming it unsafe. Friends of the owner helped remove items from the shop Thursday.
Mark Paul, the owner of Paul’s Auto Sales on the adjacent lot, was inside his office when the weather suddenly took a turn.
“It was scary. Very scary,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Paul said he would not have survived had he been at his neighbor’s. He said it is hard to believe the storm was not a tornado.
He was also surprised when a customer arrived soon after the storm.
“This guy said it’s probably a bad time to be trying to buy a car and I said no, it’s the best time,” Paul said with a laugh.
A giant tree behind the shops landed in between two houses on South Fifth Street. Sheets of metal flew over one of those houses and dropped into the front yard. The homeowner said the glory of God kept his family safe and spared their home from much more substantial damage.
Rod Carpenter also praised a higher power as he pointed to a Thank You Jesus sign in the front window of Cars & More.
“I believe there’s an angel that’s been assigned to this lot for the last 18 years,” Carpenter said.
“Lost our electricity, and it looks like the insurance company is going to give me a new roof.”
Tarps cover holes in the top of the building, but he said none of the vehicles sustained scratches or broken windows. Volunteers arrived to help clear his lot which was full of debris after the storm.
“It really was a blessing, it really was. And I asked one of my friends who was in the group, how do I pay these guys? Who do I pay? Who’s in charge? He said they do this to help people,” Carpenter said.
City crews worked through the night and into the morning to clear debris from roads and restore power lines.
Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore said one woman had to go to the hospital after a tree fell on her car while she was inside, but there were no other reported injuries.