Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TOP STORY > >Tornado too close for comfort

Leader staff writer

Hurricane Ike made its mark on Cabot early evening Saturday as one of the feeder bands spawned a tornado near South First Street, destroying a mini-storage building, damaging the roofs of an apartment complex and knocking out windows at a shopping center.

Around 6 p.m. Saturday, several friends were sitting together at Fat Daddy’s restaurant on Hwy. 367 when the power went out and winds started to get stronger.

Austin Swift, watching out the front windows, noticed siding, shingles and debris flying and trees falling over. Bob Swift, his dad, met him at the window and alerted everyone that a tornado was coming through.

He saw the swirling debris flying all around, and he knew this meant danger for everyone nearby.

The staff immediately moved everyone to the back of the restaurant. It seemed the tornado roared through for just a few seconds, but it left quite a bit of damage in its path.

The tornado damaged a storage building on First Street, going past Steeplechase Apartments and Larry’s Pizza and ripping the side of the Cabot Martial Arts Academy.

He said, “This tornado kicked the Martial Arts Academy’s butt.”

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado hit Cabot and traveled two-thirds of a mile. Elf Storage, 3524 S. First St., suffered the most damage from the tornado. A mini-storage building was peeled back and rolled into a ball there.

The tornado left a clear path in the tall brush as it sliced between the Steeplechase Apartments and the former 84 Lumber store.

Adam Langstaff, who lives at Steeplechase Apartments Building C, said he was sleeping when the storm hit.

“I felt the building shake and that’s what woke me up. It sounded like a train passing at a crossways but faster. When I went to the window and opened the blinds, I watched part of the roof from the apartment across the street peel off and sail away,” said Langstaff.

Julie Dickey, who also lives at Steeplechase Apartments Building C, said, “Everyone swarmed downstairs, and piled in the two bottom apartments. The wind came up, trees were swaying, and metal started flying. A 10- to 12-foot piece of metal was wrapped around the stairway. A storage building door was under the stairwell.”

She continued, “It was scary. People were screaming. Little kids were piled in the bathtub. There were at least 30 people in the apartment and there were three birds, numerous dogs and four cats.”

Chris Tritt, a Steeplechase Apartments representative, said he wanted to thank the Cabot Fire Department who helped with a dozen-man crew. “They allowed us to use their ladders and lights and helped put tarp over the third-floor roofs,” he said.

Tritt also said the Cabot Police Department patrolled the area all night long. He said Steeplechase residents also helped with the cleanup alongside staff and family members.

“That tells you what kind of tight-knit community we have. Everybody watches out for each other in a time of need. Everybody was helping out, and checking in on the neighbors,” Tritt said.

Tritt said that as far as he knew, no one was displaced or injured, and that the building managers were assessing the damages to the apartments.

Susan Swift of The Leader advertising staff contributed to this report.