Citizens clean after storm
David Canup thought he was going to die when he saw it -- the funnel cloud that ripped through his street in Claremont.
Canup, 60, lives on Catawba Street, which suffered significant damage Tuesday evening after two apparent tornadoes passed through the city.
"I thought it was the train coming through the front yard," Canup said of the storm's deafening roar. "I saw the tornado ... and I shut the door as quick as I could."
Canup was at home about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with his 85-year-old mother when the storm hit. Canup's daughter called earlier that night to warn him about thunderstorms in Catawba County, but he never expected the storm's damage to be so devastating.
Railroad tracks run behind Canup's home, and as the storm approached Catawba Street, Canup said it sounded as though the train was approaching.
"The train is loud, but this is louder than the train," he said.
Within 30 seconds one of the storms passed, but not before it left a trail of destruction in its wake. Canup estimated damage at his home, which included trees snapped in half and patio damage, to be at least $5,000.
"I actually thought I was going to die. I've never witnessed anything like it," Canup said. "But we're lucky. It could have been a lot worse."
Judy Sims, 49, lives several houses down from Canup at the intersection of South Lookout Street and Catawba Street. She didn't think much about warnings of severe weather, and she walked onto her front porch with her two dogs to watch the storm.
When she saw a funnel cloud moving down Catawba Street, she rushed inside her 110-year-old home as quickly as she could.
"It was making the awfulest roar you've ever heard in your life," Sims said.
The storm passed, and when Sims saw the damage to her front porch and yard, she was devastated.
"The first time I ever stepped on this porch, it was my serenity," she said fighting back tears. "When I came out here and saw the damage, I just broke down. All I've done is cried."
Sims' decorations and outdoor furniture were overturned and broken. A tree from Sims' front yard poked through porch railings and into the area she calls her sanctuary.
Although she hates to think about the downed century-old tree in her yard and her other destroyed property, Sims remains thankful no one was seriously injured.
"We're very fortunate," she said. "You can replace stuff, but you can' t replace your life."
The storm forced a tree onto a house on Catawba Street, and crews from Wise Landscaping and Tree Service worked for hours to remove the wood and debris from the house.
Eighty-six-year-old Robert Brown lives next-door to the home with the fallen tree.
"It was here and gone, and then it was over," Brown said.
Brown's front windows were broken from the storm, and his house also sustained roof damage.
Claremont resident Hilda Eckard, 80, lives several streets away from Catawba Street on East Main Street. The damage at Eckard's home was minimal.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw (Catawba Street)," she said. The difference is incredible."
Eckard's home is across the street from Pierre Foods, and some debris blown off the building landed in Eckard's yard.
"It was a lot like this when (Hurricane) Hugo went through," she said.
Newton resident Clyde Shook, 60, came to Claremont on Wednesday morning to survey the storms' damage. Shook's parents are buried in the Claremont Cemetery, which was damaged during the storm. Shook said his parents' headstones were knocked over from heavy wind.
Shook lives in the East First Street Mobile Home Park in Newton, and he was at home with the storm hit.
"It's something I don't want to go through again," he said.
Many residents compared Tuesday's storms to Hurricane Hugo, which ripped through the county more than 20 years ago.
But for Shook, this storm is much worse than Hugo.
"I don't think Hugo holds a light to what this is," Shook said. "It's just so unreal. You come that close to something that can take your life."