Five years later, Riegelwood tornado survivors still cope

RIEGELWOOD, NC (WWAY) — Five years later, and still scars remain. That’s how long it’s been since a tornado tore through Riegelwood devastating homes and the lives of many in the community. Talking about that day is still not easy for those who went through it.

Families once lived here, but now, all that lives on these empty lots are tall weeds. The two homes that once stood here are long gone. The people who lived in them long gone, as well. They died November 16, 2006, when a F-3 tornado ripped through the neighborhood off Old Lake oad in Riegelwood.

“I very seldom go around there, because it always brings back memories. Very seldom,” survivor Vivian Waddell said. “I miss the neighbors, waving at them, speaking to them and whatnot. Everybody was very friendly.”

Waddell lives at the front of this neighborhood. The morning of the tornado, she ran outside to check on her nephew, who lives a few doors down. That’s when she saw the destruction.

“When I saw everything, oh, my God, I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe what I saw with my eyes,” Waddell said. “I had seen it on TV, but I never dreamed of seeing it happen to us.”

Five years later the sights and sounds are still vivid for the emergency crews who responded.

Acme-Delco-Riegelwood Fire Chief Steve Camlin says the images of the carnage and finding the bodies of the eight people who died that day changed lives.

“We’ve had some people leave us who was traumatized over it and even affected other members in other departments that’s dealt with post-traumatic issues,” Camlin said. “It’s changed a lot of people to the point that where some of them couldn’t handle the situations that we have to endure.”

Time moves on. Homes are rebuilt. But those who lived through it live with the memories.

“ust felt the house shaking, the roof came off, everything was like in fast forward, probably everything was like seven seconds, then it was over,” survivor Shawn Bress said. “Everything was flat.”

Now, on the fifth anniversary, a solemn white ribbon adorns a monument to the victims. A reminder for all of how quickly life can change.

Chief Camlin says residents had no warning, because the tornado struck around 6:30 a.m., and most were not up watching TV. The town now uses a reverse 911 system to call residents when there is a natural disaster or other emergency.

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