Lights, pressure changes. A sound of a train rumbling. The smell of sap and smoke. Paths of cracked and fallen tree limbs.
Those who experienced the EF-1 tornado event in Mount Airy on Friday, Nov. 2, described it as unsettling and memorable. The National Weather Service estimated the wind at 100 mph.
Mandy Duley, a Virginia resident, was driving on Interstate-70 Friday on the way to visit family. She was speaking on the phone at about 8:11 p.m., but hung up to concentrate as the rain got stronger.
She said what happened over the next 15 minutes is difficult to describe because it was so fantastical.
“I saw orange, green and blue lights in the sky,” she said. She wondered if a car or a tree had been struck by lightning as she started to smell sap and smoke.
Wind was moving counterclockwise around her car and the light was enough to see debris, leaves and tree limbs swirling. She worried that she was driving over downed tree limbs as her car began to shake back and forth, but looking back, she believes it may have just been wind buffeting her car.
She could not tell if there were other cars near her on the road and prayed that she would not strike one.
“I remember my neck hurting afterwards because I was so tensely holding the wheel,” she said.
When she finally moved past the wind and rain, piles of leaves were stuck under her windshield wipers, but she was able to make it safely to her destination.
“I’m very thankful to God, that’s for sure,” she said.
Windy Irwin was driving on Md. 27 headed toward Westminster when she also witnessed a blue light flash.
“As the [traffic] light turned green and I started going, there was this rush of wind, black smoke, just crazy rain. … I started feeling really uncomfortable, that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know something is wrong,” she said.
Then the whole shopping center went black as it lost power. As she drove the rest of the way home, she felt like she was driving against pressure.
“I just started praying all the way home,” She said. “I couldn’t even call anybody because my hands were frozen to the steering wheel.”
When she reached her house, she and her son quickly took shelter in the basement.
Trish Albano, of Mount Airy, was in the T.J. Maxx in the Twin Arch Shopping Center with her husband.
That was the building where the roof was lifted and partially came off, according to a public information statement from the National Weather Service.
She said she could tell something was wrong, “by the way it was raining. It just doesn’t sound normal on the roof.”
Then a rumbling noise started, sounding to her like a train passing close by. She ran toward a structural support wall and yelled for her husband to join her away from the windows. Around her, others were running toward the back of the store, she said.
The main chaos lasted only a few seconds, but, “You could see the tiles just fluttering in the breeze. … I was waiting for it to all lift up and go,” she said.
It brought back memories for her of living in Nashville, Tennessee, where tornados are a more common occurrence.
When it was safe, she took a few seconds of video of the interior of the store as rain came through the roof. She put the video on Facebook for neighbors to view, but it soon gained traction and was shared widely. She was contacted by news outlets as far away as Japan.
“I was really thankful nobody had been hurt,” she said.
Peter Crassas and Gina Norato were also inside the T.J. Maxx when the tornado struck. Crassas said he thought the sound of the rain was unusual but was not sure there had been a tornado until he saw the roof lift.
With a background in demolition, he knew something was unusual.
“There’s no way that was just wind,” he said. “It looked like somebody grabbed it, picked it back up and slammed it down.”
Looking at later reports, he saw that the tornado passed directly over where the two were standing.
They ran to the back of the store with other patrons, but quickly returned to the front after smelling gas in the back of the store.
There was uncertainty about when it was safe to leave because the path of tornados can be unpredictable, he said, but as soon as it seemed safe they tried to make their way back to Crassas’ home.
Though he lives nearby, “I tried three alternate routes and the road was blocked” because so many trees and lines were felled.
He eventually dropped Norato off and had to park nearby and walk to his home in order to check on his dogs. The tornado hit around 8:20 p.m. By this time, it was 2 a.m., he said.
Many of his neighbors had similar experiences and there was a lot of anxiety and frustration as people tried to get home to check on their families, he said.
He spent most of Monday dealing with property damage and the aftermath.
“There was no alert, no signs of it ...I wasn’t expecting it,” he said of the storm.
Angela Zaloudek, of Mount Airy, was not at home at the time the storm moved through, but said that the path of the hurricane was visible through her neighborhood.
On her family’s property, there are nine trees down including a 40-foot cypress that was blocking their driveway when they arrived back home.
She estimates about 150 downed throughout the neighborhood. She said she felt blessed that her home was intact, but for the community, cleanup will take “a lot of work and a lot of money,” she said.
According to a news release from Carroll County government, the county Department of Public Works will begin picking up trees and vegetative debris like branches and leaves on Tuesday, Nov. 6. from residential properties.
Debris must be set out by Monday, Nov. 19, at 8 a.m. and collection will be finished Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Pickup areas were determined by the tornado path taken from the National Weather Service’s preliminary damage survey results and are: Arrowhead Circle/Locksley Lane, Boteler Road/Runkles Road, Watersville Road, Pheasant Ridge Community, Bennett Branch Road, Dogwood Drive, Hickory Lane, extreme eastern portion of East Ridgeville Boulevard, Gillis Falls Road.
Only tree and vegetative debris will be picked up. Place the debris within 5feet of the road, but do not bag it.
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Vegetative debris will also be accepted at the Northern Resource Recovery Park, 1400 Baltimore Blvd., Westminster and Hoods Mill Landfill, 7901 Kabik Court, Woodbine.