KENLY, N.C. – As a tornado ripped through his North Carolina neighborhood, Curt Jernigan huddled in his bathroom, praying for the raging winds to spare him.
When Jernigan emerged from the home, he met a neighbor, his face covered in blood, who pleaded with him to help search for his wife. She had gone missing in the confusion of the storm. But the 41-year-old Jernigan said he knew the effort to find the woman alive would be fruitless.
“When I saw what he had in his yard, I knew it wasn’t going to be a rescue – it was a recovery. It’s just devastation,” Jernigan said.
His grim thought proved correct. State police said his neighbor, Maryland Gomez, who was in her 60s, was one of two people killed by tornadoes and severe weather that swept across central North Carolina early Saturday.
Gomez’s body was found amid the rubble that was once her home in Kenly, a community about 35 miles southeast of Raleigh, said state police spokeswoman Patty McQuillan. In neighboring Wilson County, authorities said a child also was killed. Several people were injured in the cluster of strong storms that hit some six counties.
The only thing left standing of Gomez’s home was her front porch, one of at least a half-dozen houses destroyed by the storms that also knocked down trees and power lines. Residents emerged at daybreak to find their homes in ruins, cars flipped over and debris strewn about.
“It was pretty massive destruction,” Johnston County emergency management coordinator Derrick Duggins said. “It goes to show the magnitude of what natural weather can do.”