NEWCASTLE — Bryan Stout slipped into the storm cellar with mere seconds to spare.
He had raced home from work Tuesday, grabbed the three family dogs and dropped into the tiny cellar with his wife, April, 35, and daughter, Tiffany, 17, just before a tornado barreled over their tan aluminum-sided house.
“It was like standing under a helicopter. I could hear a whoop-whoop-whoop like the sound of a helicopter rotor,” said Stout, 34.
About four minutes later, the family peeked out the cellar door. The wind had uprooted a huge tree and slammed it against the house, virtually trapping the family inside. Stout had to shove his way through the limbs and then reached down to pull out his wife and daughter.
Much of the house they moved into a few weeks ago remained upright, but they lost most of the contents.
Wednesday, about a dozen family members, neighbors and friends helped the family pile up appliances and rake through bits and pieces of material things. Stout considers the family lucky: everyone is safe.
“It's utter devastation,” said Val Tower, taking a break from helping the Stouts clean up their belongings in the Carr addition. “From the elementary school, the tornado took a beeline diagonally through the addition. It hopscotched through, leaving one house alone and waylaying the next.”
Carr, one of the city's first incorporated areas, lost 22 homes in the tornado, said Ian Crittenden, deputy emergency manager.
Just across from the elementary school, Karen Bates, 50, glanced at the door to what used to be her pantry. It was the only undisturbed feature remaining in the home she'd owned since 1986. Pieces of insulation, splintered wood and twisted bits of metal made up the rest of her home. A bulldozer pushed a large crumpled piece of metal — what used to be her swimming pool — out of the street.