COVINGTON - Residents in the Highpoint Community awoke Thursday morning to find they weren't having nightmares Wednesday night when high winds briefly touched down and ravaged many homes in the area. The damage was all too real, but most were giving thanks no lives were lost.
"We are blessed," said 82-year-old Andrew Bostick as he gazed about his front yard, assessing the damage to his home and his vehicle.
Bostick lives on King Bostick Road, named for his father, and said the storm came through so fast he didn't have time to get scared.
"I was there in the house and in about five minutes, everything was over," he said.
He said he had just checked on his brother Charley Bostick who lives on "the other side of Highway 36" to see if he was OK and had unplugged his television due to the lightning.
"I was opening my mail and had opened up one piece and the lights went out," he said. "I thought it was hail. I heard, pop-pop-pop, and I thought, 'What's happening?' And in the next minute, it was all over. There wasn't nothing. It was just raining."
It wasn't until daylight came that he was able to assess the damage. Trees had fallen on his home, taking off three pieces of roofing tin, and also hit his truck. His brother and a neighbor were assisting him with a chainsaw Thursday morning, and predictions were that there would be no shortage of firewood for the remainder of the winter.
High Point Forest Road resident Richard Garner said he heard that same pop-pop-pop sound.
"I thought it was hail in the very beginning. It sounded like it was hitting the house, but I think the house itself was yielding to that pressure. I think maybe the house was trying to go places," he said. "We went into a hallway bathroom with our little Pomeranian dog and closed the door and hunkered down. It was over in just a few seconds."
His home was heavily damaged when an oak tree crashed into the back of the residence, doing structural as well as some interior damage.
"People are up there right now on top of the house trying to get the tree off," he said. "Then we'll put tarps on until we can get some repair people down here. A 150-year-old white oak fell in the front yard, too."
Garner said he has no doubt that it was a tornado that hit the area.
"We're lucky it didn't touch down, but it had enough suction to suck up all these trees around here, roots and all. Some, of course, were broken and splintered off. I mean oaks came up out of the ground with 10- to 12-foot in diameter root balls."
Rebecca Garner, a King Bostick Road resident who lives in a split-level home, reported that it was amazing that so much damage could have been done in such a short time. Her yard with 30-plus trees was devastated, but her home wasn't touched.
"It happened so fast," she said, adding that her niece and her niece's two infant children, as well as her own grandchildren, were in the house when the storm hit.
"All at once the lights popped, and I mean popped loud and we heard trees breaking," she said. "In that split second we were trying to get the kids down to a lower level than where we were. We started running and both of us fell down the steps trying to get the kids down. We both had bruises, but the kids didn't get a bruise on them."
Garner became emotional when she thought of what could have happened.
"It was unbelievable. I still look out across the yard and I still thank God every minute it did miss the house because it would have taken it out," she said. "I'll probably wind up with no trees in my yard, but I feel like those trees might have protected the house."
Her pump house was blown away, as was her well pump. She's found pieces of it, and doesn't know if it can be repaired or will have to be replaced. She hasn't found all the tools and lawn equipment she kept in the pump house.
Her grandchildren's trampoline was located hanging from a tree at her brother's house next door.
High Point Forest subdivision resident Chuck Curtis dodged a bullet in more ways than one. His property went undamaged for the most part, although in a similar storm two years ago he lost 13 trees.
"I work for Snapping Shoals (EMC) and I was off today to be with the kids because they're out of school. There was a lot of rain, a lot of wind and lightning came up. It was over in a second. I've got a little tin shed in the back and it just mangled it, chewed it up and spit it out," he said.
He said in the immediate aftermath of the storm he could see that traffic was backed up on Highway 36.
"I walked up there and saw power lines were all over the highway, so I knew it was terrible," he said.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org