ALUM CREEK, W.Va. — Jessica Parker and her husband grabbed their two kids and ran to the basement when they received a tornado warning alert Monday evening while inside their Coventry Woods home.
Parker, like all residents in the subdivision near Alum Creek in Kanawha County, sat in the eye of what is now a confirmed tornado by the National Weather Service (NWS).
“Our ears started popping based on the pressure inside the home,” she said as her family watched the twister. “When we got downstairs, we could see out our basement windows and the slide was in the air. It’s still there attached but it was just floating. The trees just went down instantly.
“You just saw light because we were used to being in the shade, and then all of a sudden there were no trees in our backyard any longer.”
The NWS said that after their survey team looked at damage in Kanawha County, it confirmed that a tornado occurred at 6:53 p.m. on Monday touching down near the Lincoln/Kanawha Co. line just southwest of Alum Creek area and moving northeast through Kanawha County, in the vicinity of US 119 where Coventry Woods sits.
The agency went on to say that the tornado was an EF1 with winds speeds of up to 90 mph and was on the ground for approximately 11 miles with a width of 0.2 miles before dissipating near the Kanawha River near downtown Charleston.
James Lowery, a 25-year resident in the 44 home neighborhood that is Coventry Woods said his community is reeling based on what he has seen.
“Houses with six or seven trees laying on them, people that lost most of their roofs, all the roads were blocked last night (Monday),” he said.
Lowery was also home during the storm as he called his family lucky to get away with minimal property damage. He said as soon as he got the alert, his family began moving things in the house.
He said this is the worst weather damage his neighborhood has ever seen.
“This would be the worst I have seen,” he said. “Even with the Derecho, we really didn’t see a whole lot of damage in this neighborhood. We were lucky then too. The power wasn’t even out like it is now with the Derecho.”
Parker said her family will have to get a new roof on the home and clean up a backyard that has playground equipment used by her 3 and 5-year-old kids that is scattered everywhere with dozens of trees and debris down.
She said once the storm passed, there were so many trees down everywhere that even the police and emergency crews could not get to her house.
“What seemed like 20 seconds was more like two minutes of these winds,” she said. “The trees just went down basically like they were nothing.
“The trees just went off the other way thought. We didn’t get directly hit by the large trees. In our backyard we have some 70-foot, 80-foot trees that went opposite our house, thank God.”
Clinton Curry, a lifelong Childress Road resident just off US 119 and property owner of more than 50 acres in that area estimated at least 300 trees are down on his property that included dozens of damaged electrical poles.
Curry even said that the tornado winds turned on two spigots on his house by itself.
He estimated at least 60 acres of his land is completely destroyed and will take at least a year to clean up.
“I have a forty-foot big oak tree that has been there for 200 years and it turned it over and pulled it out of the ground,” Curry said.
“The roots are 12 or 14 feet across just got uprooted and all we can do is cut it with a three-foot chainsaw.”
Immediately following the passing for the storms, Appalachian Power had reported at least 27,000 outages just in Kanawha County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the company reported thousands of outages remain. Spokesman Phil Moye had said it may take “days” to get power fully restored in areas.
While the power remains out at Coventry Woods and most residents are without utilities, the Parker family is counting their blessings. A couple of homes in the neighborhood will not be inhabitable for months as even cars sit destroyed.
“West Virginia is not exactly known for tornados. We definitely weren’t expecting anything like this. We took it seriously but we just didn’t quite expect the amount of damage,” Parker said.
“When we went out today (Tuesday) when the roads were cleared, we could see the extensive amount of damage that the entire neighborhood suffered. There will be a lot of cleanups involved.”
There have no reported injuries anywhere in the Kanawha Valley following the Monday twister.