One woman’s view of Laurens County tornado: ‘I’m glad I’m alive’

jkovac@macon.comFebruary 21, 2014 

DUBLIN -- The morning sky flashed mean, and the heavens opened up. Trees crashed down, windows shattered, a trampoline set sail, houses shook and one was torn clean in two, but somehow folks survived.

The apparent pre-springtime twister that slashed through north of town about 8:30 a.m. Friday caught O.E. Clark by surprise.

Clark, who runs a tile company, had just pulled into a customer’s driveway on Buckeye Road. He parked under a pecan tree, so his pickup truck would be out of the way.

Just then an alert sounded on his cellphone: tornado.

“It was just too late,” he said. “It hit me, ‘Whoomp!’ ... I just sat in the truck and held my brakes. ... I’ve always heard it can blow you all around.”

An instant later, the pecan tree slammed down across the top of Clark’s wind- and rain-battered pickup.

“Like a ton of water, like the ocean had just wrapped you up,” he said. “And I didn’t know which way I was going.”

Clark did all he could. He sat. The tempest roared on, and in a minute or two it was gone.

A tree fell on O.E. Clark’s truck while he was in it in East Dublin.
Woody Marshall/The Telegraph

Earlier, 6 1/2 miles or so to the west, across the Oconee River over near the W.H. “Bud” Barron Airport, the storm touched down and began rattling neighborhoods all across Dublin’s top end.

One of the airport’s runways lies along Claxton Dairy Road, about 3 miles due north of Interstate 16. The airfield is bounded by chain link fence, a good 50 feet of which was chewed up by violent wind.

A house nearby, the Leroy place, overlooks a pond. It was sliced in half -- one part left standing, the other flattened to its concrete-slab foundation. No one was hurt. At midday, friends and emergency workers were sifting through the wreckage.

A transformer dangled from a power pole. The telltale signs of tornado-wrought fury, yellow insulation in the treetops and mangled pines, littered the landscape.

A near-100-year-old oak keeled over in Linda Harvey’s backyard next door.

“You couldn’t hear the tree (fall) because all you could hear was whistling,” she said.

Harvey was getting dressed for work when she heard her son say the trampoline was in the air.

Trampolines flew and oak trees fell near Linda Harvey’s home north of Dublin.
Joe Kovac Jr./The Telegraph

Her husband, Fred, stared out at trees flailing sideways in the wind.

“The house went to shaking, and I told everybody to get in the bathroom,” he said.

Looking at the tipped-over mass of roots and earth from the felled oak that is taller than she is, Linda Harvey couldn’t help glancing next door at the Leroy home.

“When I see this and I see that over there, I think we’re lucky. Real lucky,” she said.

Fred Harvey said, “Thank God ... that we’re still alive and them people there are still alive.”

Before the wind kicked up, one of their neighbors, Larry Bernard Taylor, had rushed out to roll up the windows on his car. It was calm.

“Five minutes later, it was white,” Taylor said. “Everything was white. So I grabbed my girlfriend and our little girl, and we went in the closet. ... When I came out, everything was down. It was like catastrophe. Everything uprooted.”

A public works man helping clear the roads happened by as Taylor recalled the morning’s events.

A trio of pines had just missed crashing into his roof.

Larry Taylor had only word for the devastation in his yard. “Unreal.” Joe Kovac Jr./The Telegraph

“Say your prayers and say ’em hard,” said the worker, Robert Curry. “Those trees didn’t get your house.”

To the east back toward the river, Beatrice Dixon lives in a small, red house along U.S. 441, not far from Trinity Christian School.

She was in bed when the weather got ugly. A den window busted.

“I heard a big, rushing gush, and it went over. It was like it was trying to take the house out. ... When I looked out I just saw all of the destruction.”

Limbs and trees were everywhere.

Beatrice Dixon said she saw God’s blessings amid the tornado’s devastation.
Joe Kovac Jr./The Telegraph

One of Dixon’s front-porch rocking chairs took flight to the backyard.

A big yard across the highway looked like a landfill of mangled pines.

“I see devastation, but I also see the blessing of God here,” Dixon said.

“When I felt the wind when it came through, it was like, ‘Oh, my, I don’t know what’s going on.’ ... I’m like, ‘Oh, God, I thank you because you spared my life.’ It’s devastating, it really is. But I’m glad I’m alive.”

Contact writer Joe Kovac Jr. at 744-4397.

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