Storm leaves Kings Mountain residents with 'no pretty sight'


"We didn't lose anything," says Sandy Witt, "but the neighbors did. And knowing that is just as bad."

Wednesday afternoon, in the aftermath of a destructive storm that swept through the small community of Kings Mountain in southern Lincoln County, residents spilled into the streets. Downed power and telephone lines made venturing outside the only feasible way to assess damage and check the safety of loved ones.

They were met with a landscape of shattered trees, destroyed barns, debris from damaged houses, and terrified cattle. Tree limbs were strewn everywhere and the pungent smell of crushed leaves filled the air. Next to Fishing Creek, a train was stalled on the tracks. Mud, leaves and other debris kicked up by the high winds plastered the sides of barns and buildings alike.

Alongside 200 Depot Street, pink insulation littered the lawn in sodden strips and chunks of the demolished roof lay next to the barn. The house belongs to Ottis Hannah, who has lived there since he bought the building and surrounding farmland in 1953, although he retired from farming when he sold the land in 1999.


Once a low, brick structure, Hannah's house is now missing two-thirds of its roof. A nearby propane tank was overturned, causing a brief, but dangerous, leak. Amidst the wreckage scattered around the house, a small wooden footstool sat forlornly on the lawn, a silent witness to the winds and ruins.

While checking his property for damages, local farmer Ben Padgett encountered evidence of the funnel cloud's destructive power. "I've got a brand new barn - still under construction ... Everything was done but the gable ends and the doors. ... I was standing in the door (of the house), watching the other end of the farm, and we saw the tobacco barn fall. So we thought we'd come up here and check on this one."

The new barn, valued at $13,500, is now a pile of red tin roofing. A cattle trailer, which was inside the leveled barn, was destroyed when the rafters fell on it; however, a new tractor, which was also inside the barn, survived the storm without a scratch.

Wednesday morning, Padgett closed on a loan to build a new house, beside where his barn now lays in a heap. Now, he's not sure what to do.

Only one injury reported

Fortunately, there was only one reported injury; the elderly Hannah suffered lacerations when the storm blew the roof half off his house. His brother and sister-in-law, Vivian Hannah, battled downed trees and fallen limbs to check on him. "We had to go all the way around. You couldn't get down that way with all the trees they're cutting now."

Concerned and frightened neighbors formed a moderate crowd by late afternoon; the hottest topic of conversation was personal impressions of the storm. "It was lightning and the wind was really whipping," Thelma Mastin said. "I didn't think it was a tornado; it looked like one but there weren't any funnel clouds or anything It was kind of spooky. That wind was horrible."

Residents especially noted the wind and noise. Witt was at work when her daughter, Bridgette Witt, called to tell her there was a storm. "All I could hear was the roar of the tornado ... ," Witt said.

At their home on Fishing Creek Road, Bridgette was watching the storm from inside. "The doors were open and I walked over and it pushed me back. It was like being in the middle of the tornado. It was like really, really fast wind and it was surrounding us. It was a bunch of colors mixed together: bluish-grayish-green."

Bridgette's cousin, Kimberly Luttrell was with her when the storm hit. "We was out here looking out the side door. We saw these gray clouds; the wind was going around really fast. You know how wind sounds like a train whistle ..." She adds, "I'm terrified of storms."

Other residents also watched the storm from the relative safety of their houses. Tammy Sears says, "We was all really kind of nervous. We just sat in the living room watching out the window ... If it started coming towards us, we would have run next door to the basement. It was really bad."

In the wake of the storm, the people of Kings Mountain are left to gather the pieces of their splintered homes and upturned lives. Padgett points out, "It's hard to tell (how long clean-up will take) ... It will be a while. We haven't heard from the insurance to see if there's any clean-up money in the policies."

The general consensus is that this storm is the worst the community has ever experienced. "Had the hail storm last year, or whenever it was. Did a little bit of damage but not much," Padgett said.

And Phillip Carter notes, "I seen it before, with that big tornado up in Highland. I seen it before and it ain't never no pretty sight."

Central Kentucky News Articles