Lake Caroline hardest hit part of Madison County
Homeowners hunker down in tornado
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:00 PM
Lake Caroline's Richie Lesley is shopping for a storm shelter following a close call with a tornado Monday evening.
Lake Caroline homeowners inspect damage to a home following Monday evening’s tornado.
"I'll be shopping for a storm shelter to be installed somewhere in my home or yard," he said Wednesday.
Lesley and his wife and two children were inside their home on the 18th fairway of the Lake Caroline Golf Club as the system approached. He said they were listening to news reports when suddenly they lost power in the home.
"You can see a good distance from our backyard," he began. "My wife had our two boys in her closet. You could see some movement of clouds coming down out of the main cloud and almost simultaneously the power went out."
The family jumped in the closet and Lesley began praying.
"Feeling that helpless as a husband and a father to two young children is a terrible feeling," he said. "At the same time, I'm a man of faith and I was praying to God to spare us and to lift that thing up and get it out of there."
He said they heard the tornado rumble through, sparing their home. Within seconds it was over.
"After it passed, it was sunny and bright," he said. "Everything was fine. That's when emergency responders came barreling down the main boulevard."
As storm sirens blared throughout Madison County early Monday evening, it was residents at Lake Caroline who saw and felt Mother Nature's destructive force up close. A rain-wrapped funnel cloud roared through a park in the area, uprooting giant oak trees and sucking up lights.
In all, 92 homes were damaged and the costs were piling up as insurance adjusters continued to make their way to the area.
Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker was also in the area when the tornado hit. He said within 15 minutes there were 80 first responders on the scene.
"I didn't even have to call for help," he said. "We had a ton of folks there quick."
Tucker had been talking with the NWS and knew two storm cells with rotation were spotted nearby.
"When it formed and came down, it looked like it was on the ground for five seconds," he recalled. "Then it looked like it bounced right back up."
Most of the damage from the storm occurred in the back part of the subdivision, along Caroline Boulevard, down Beaufort Circle, and near the boat dock on Camden Court.
Barry Crowe, who lives next door to the boat dock, was huddled up inside his home when the tornado hit.
"I was out in the driveway taking pictures, and there was a lot of swirling in the clouds," Crowe said. "Within about 15 seconds, it went pitch black and I saw debris start flying over the house. I ran back inside and went to the back door. The wind went from 10 miles per hour to 100, just instantly. It started laying trees down - I could hear them popping and cracking - so I laid down on the floor."
Crowe said he could see furniture, roof shingles and other debris falling in the backyard.
"I heard the chimney come off the house and hit the side of the house," he said. "Then it got quiet and started raining. I came outside and saw the roof damage, and started trying to keep any water from getting inside. It was over just like that."
Lake Caroline business manager Doug Jones said they are continuing the cleanup effort but homeowners were lucky it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
"We were very fortunate," Jones said. "We had one lady who had some scratches, but she did not go to the hospital. The damage is extensive, but nobody got seriously hurt."
Road crews worked Wednesday morning trying to remove downed trees from the park between Hampton Chase and Caroline Boulevard.
Along Beaufort Circle, piles of the remains of downed trees lined the street. Broken windows were boarded or otherwise sealed, and every roof for a block was covered with blue tarp.
A small hut that housed an ice machine near the driving range at Lake Caroline Golf Club was destroyed when a column that provided it key support collapsed, and there were a few shingles missing off the clubhouse.
Club Pro Kyle Sisk said the club was very fortunate to have no damage to the golf course or more extensive damage to the main building.
"We got lucky," he said.
A small fire broke out in one home and officials attributed it as an electrical fire due to the storm.
Other parts of Madison County survived Monday's storms relatively unscathed.
Madison County Emergency Management Director Butch Hammack said the damage was concentrated in Lake Caroline, although there were reports of some home damage in Deerfield, Reunion, and Annandale.
"The cities are all fine," he said. "We had some power outages in Canton, but minimal damage throughout most of the county."
He added, "We're very blessed."