STOKES – A powerful storm Monday night spawned a tornado that ripped the roof off an iconic 101-year-old country store, knocked out power for several miles and brought torrential rain to a stretch of rural road between Bethel and Stokes in northern Pitt County.
The tornado, which hit about 7:30 p.m., damaged the former Whitehurst Station store, a popular gathering place for area residents until it closed in December 2006. A barn also was destroyed, three houses were damaged, and several utility poles were toppled, leaving live wires on the railroad tracks between the store and Kirk Manning’s house.
No injuries were reported.
Tornado photo courtesy of Eddie Manning
Manning said he saw the tornado as it crossed N.C. 30, about 5 miles from Stokes. “I was looking out the window,” Manning said on the porch of his home as rain continue to pour.
“It looked like a little water spout that you see on the coast hovering back over there,” he said, pointing across N.C. 30. “It come down to the ground, and I started seeing tree limbs and tin and stuff going by. I went and got in the closet. When I come out of the closet, I had a window air conditioner in here. It had blown that window air conditioner into the bedroom.”
Manning also had some damage to the roof of his home.“I lost a bunch of shingles,” he said. “I’ve got pots all over the upstairs catching water now.” Manning said the tornado was in the area for several minutes. “It probably about 10 times re-formed back in the field back here,” he said. “It kept trying to re-form and get back to the ground. I started to get in my car and just leave and come back about an hour later.”
Storm clouds hover over northern Pitt County on Monday night.
Some two hours after the tornado hit, the area was without electricity and heavy rain flooded fields and filled ditches. Greenville Utilities crews were working along the road trying to restore power. Stokes and Bethel fire department personnel were directing traffic and keeping onlookers away from the railroad tracks.
Eddie Manning came to check on family members, including his sister, Darlene, and the store that his uncles, Dean Whitehurst and Ralph Whitehurst, ran until they retired in 2006. Whitehurst opened the store in 1916.
“I used to live a few houses down, but I moved to Bethel,” Eddie Manning said. “I kept wanting to come out here because everybody kept telling me about it. … I was over there right after it hit, and everybody was out walking around. Nobody was injured.”