‘Straight line’ or tornadic, it was a storm to remember

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

By John Edwards


National Weather Service officials say that a storm that struck south of Benn’s Church Friday night was not a tornado. “It was straight-line wind,” a spokesman said.

You’ll never convince some of the people who experienced the storm firsthand of that, certainly not Hunter Jones and Nell Owen.

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The two senior citizens had attended a concert in Suffolk and had just dropped off a third concert-goer, Emma Jean Brady, who lives on Riddick Road.

The violent storm hit suddenly as the two ladies were leaving Brady’s house and driving north on tree-lined Riddick Road about 8:30 p.m.

“It must have been right when it hit,” Jones recalled. “It was just about dark. There was hail and pouring rain. A tree went down in front of us. I tried to get out and move it, but couldn’t. We backed up and turned around and another tree had come down across the road (blocking the other direction).” {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

An unidentified man brought a tractor out and moved one of the trees so the women could make their way along Riddick to Benn’s Church Boulevard. 

The Riddick Road experience was scary, but these two ladies took it in stride.

“It was scary, but we never really reared. We laughed, joked about it and talked about what could have happened,” Owen recalled.

Once the pair got to Benn’s Church Boulevard, they found traffic stopped because of downed power lines. At that point, they were literally in sight of Jones’ home.

Owen said a utility worker told them the highway would be closed for hours and that they should consider turning around at a crossover and going the opposite direction. 

They did, and went to Robby Taylor’s house located a short distance to the south and across a field from Jones’s. There they found more trees downed, a farm building demolished, but neighbor Taylor ready to help.

“God and Robby took care of us,” Owen said Monday, recalling the nighttime adventure.

“Poor Robby, with all he had been through, then he came up with us.” He just said, ‘I’ll take care of you.”

Taylor took the ladies through the field to Jones’ house where she retrieved pills she was supposed to take. He then insisted she ride with them while he took Owen to her home in Carrollton rather than staying alone in her house.

By the time they returned from Carrollton, the storm had fully passed and he took Jones back to her home on his way back to his house, known as Locust Grove.

Taylor then began assessing the damage to his property.

“Locust Grove became Locust Tree,” he joked Sunday. 

In addition to the trees, the storm wrecked a small 19th century farm building. It toppled a tree across the corner of the former milk room of the one-time dairy farm and knocked out the farm’s electrical supply. (The dairy barn had burned down more than two decades ago.)

Elsewhere, the storm toppled the Riddick Farm dairy barn, which had not been in use for decades, but had recently been restored and was a landmark to motorists on Benn’s Church Boulevard (Hwy. 10).

On Riddick Road, located East of Hwy. 10, trees were dropped onto car ports, siding was torn from houses and a pine tree sliced through Charles Roff’s hay barn.

There were no reports of injuries and no reports of catastrophic home damage.

People who live along Riddick, though, remain convinced it was a tornado or something akin to one that struck.

Riddick Road resident C.B. Riley said, “It had to be a tornado. The whole house next door shook and it knocked the doors open. It roared like a train.”

Roff, who has seen his share of storms over the years, said this one thinned the trees near his house and damaged the hay barn, but was philosophical about it. 

“Everything can be fixed,” he said.  {/mprestriction}