Updated 10:13 a.m. | April 17, 2018
Mary Carelock was enjoying a rainy Sunday evening on her front porch on East Bessemer Avenue. Then in a matter of minutes, everything changed.
“We saw the tornado. We saw stuff flying in the air. We ran inside, and as we lied down, all the windows just started busting out,” she said. “I never experienced that.”
Carelock’s lived at the house for seven years and now she has to find somewhere else to call home. She still keeps her faith, even if it is frightening to her.
“That's the Lord's work but it scared me to death,” she said. “I'm glad I'm here.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed tornadoes touched down during a severe weather outbreak in the Carolinas.
In North Carolina, the weather service office in Raleigh said Monday that a high-end EF-2 tornado hit Greensboro, carrying maximum winds of 135 mph with a path that was at least 300 yards wide.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan described her tour of the damage as devastating.
“Every time we turned a corner, it was like seeing something again for the first time,” Vaughan said. “It really looked like a war zone and we have to remember that people are living in these conditions. Today, everybody is grateful just to be alive.”
Sunday’s severe weather destroyed at least 20 homes and businesses, and damaged hundreds more in Greensboro, according to city officials.
A spokeswoman for Guilford County Schools said three schools – Hampton Elementary, Peeler Elementary and Erwin Montessori Schools – were damaged so badly that they will not reopen this year. Sixteen other schools did not have power Monday. Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said staff and students will transfer to each of three other primary schools.
“The teams are meeting now to make sure the transition runs smoothly, and our goal is to return all students in Guilford County to school as soon as possible, she said.
Governor Roy Cooper was among those who surveyed the debris.
“Thank God school was not in session when this storm hit because you could see the devastated classrooms, and we have to be grateful for that,” Cooper said.
City officials say cleanup is expected to continue through Tuesday.
One person died in Sunday's storm, and thousands were left without power because of fallen trees and downed power lines and utility poles. The damage forced officials to cancel classes at all schools in Guilford County.
The weather service in South Carolina said an EF-0 tornado hit Lexington and an EF-1 hit Irmo. No serious injuries were reported in those storms.
By early Monday afternoon, more than 4,000 electric customers were still without service. Duke Energy reported about 2,100 customers without service, most in Lancaster and Fairfield Counties.
South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. had nearly 2,000 customers without service, almost all were in Lexington and Richland counties.
The tornadoes and storms caused significant damage on Greensboro's east side and in pockets of northeast Rockingham County. There are reports of structural damage from fallen trees, power lines down, and roadways blocked with debris.
Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates said his main message to county residents is to stay away from the affected areas.
"We are urging citizens these areas are controlled access only at this point," Cates said. "The only people that have access to these areas are property owners that have proper identification, emergency services personnel or properly credentialed utility workers."
Cates said sightseeing is not an option. He said at least seven people were hospitalized for injuries, mostly from debris. The county has requested a damage assessment team from the state.
In Greensboro, police said 48-year-old Anthony George of Greensboro was killed about 5:45 p.m. Sunday when a tree fell on his car.
“We know that we have many structures that have been damaged,” Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.