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Bertie County residents hit by tornado reflect on one-year anniversary of Isaias destruction

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 17:16:28-04

BERTIE Co., N.C. — Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly tropical storm that ravaged Bertie County.

Isaias brought an EF-3 tornado with damaging winds up to 145 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Two adults were killed and 14 others were hurt after the severe storms struck the area.

George Gilliam says he had never experienced anything like Isaias before. Neither had his father, who very well could’ve been trapped under a tree had it not been for a timely bathroom break.

“He came out of the bathroom and he was looking stunned, and I was like, ‘Are you okay?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I got up to go to the bathroom,’ and I said, ‘There’s a tornado out there. We’ve got to get out of here. We’ve got to get out of this room,'” explained Gilliam.

The tornado winds ripped a tree apart that fell on the Gilliams' house, went through the roof and landed on a bed.

“I heard a big roar - it sounded like a freight train - and a big bang,” said Gilliam. “It came through far enough that anybody in that bed... it would have injured them.”

The debris also broke windows and landed on a car. Tree limbs were piled high in front of the house. An entire tree truck came down in front of Gilliam’s sister’s house next door.

The Gilliams lived in a temporary home for several months as they rebuilt. Their home is whole again, but not everyone was so lucky.

“I would say about 75% of them have recovered. It’s the mobile home park that's still ravaged,” said Gilliam.

The tornado leveled an entire mobile home community. Some trailers have returned to Angela Park, but most have relocated.

Six families are still living in temporary campers while the county continues to work to get them permanent housing.

“It’s scary, but then, you know, you look around yourself and you’re still standing there and you realize how blessed you are,” said Gilliam.

A year later, Gilliam is thankful his losses were only material and reminded people that Mother Nature is not someone to mess with.

“Take weather alerts seriously,” he said. “Respect it.”