Come down here, we got to get under the stairs, a tornado’s coming, Isaiah Smith’s wife yelled to her husband.
As he ran down to the first floor and hid with his wife in the utility closet under the steps, the storm reached their home in northwest Calhoun County.
“All hell broke loose,” Smith said.
It hit their home with such ferocity he said he nearly blacked out. When the fury had passed, Smith and his wife “woke up” to find their home reduced to a pile of rubble. His two pickup trucks and a new Cadillac were destroyed.
The utility closet was the most intact part of the home, Smith said.
Northwest Calhoun County appeared to have seen the worst damage from the severe storms that smashed through the county late Wednesday. Authorities confirmed two dead but indicated the total is likely to rise as volunteers and emergency workers piece through mangled homes and broken trees.
One of the people killed in the storm was Smith’s aunt, Ruby Douthitt. Family members gathered at her roofless home – one of the two homes still standing – as an assistant coroner collected her body from the side of the road.
Much of Smith’s and Douthitt’s extended family lived in the rural area and survived the storm’s wrath.
Henry Douthitt Sr., Ruby Douthitt’s brother-in-law, was in the foyer off his Peeks Hill home when a twister sucked the roof of the home’s frame leaving the murky twilight exposed.
“I heard a rushing wind. All of the sudden the house started shaking,” Henry Douthitt said. “When I looked up, I could see it and the top of it was gone.”
Henry Douthitt lived in a blue-frame house at the northwestern corner of the county surrounded by four more family residences, at least some of which were mobile homes. Most survived.
He said a tornado pulled Ruby out of the house and left her in a field nearby. Her husband, who was hospitalized early Thursday morning with a head injury, went after her into the storm. The couple was married for nearly 30 years, Douthitt said.
Another family member in the home, a 15-year-old boy, came away without any notable injuries. His dad and stepmom stood on the roadside at midnight waiting to see him for the first time since the late afternoon storms struck.
The teen was OK, but shoeless. The storm pulled the shoes off the boy’s feet, his dad said.
They were at the home without power for some time before crews reached their remote residence. In the wake of the storm, tree tops were twisted off their trunks, and lay along the roadside crowding the streets and making them impassable for some time.
Most everyone at the scene, from rescue crews to victims, said they’d never seen such destruction from a storm.
“It sounded like a jet plane trying to land,” Douthitt said of the storm. “It looked like something you see on TV.”
Family members cobbled together a plan to visit Ruby’s husband, getting in trucks and figuring out what logistics they could, said Smith, standing in the road, his uncle’s blood splattered across his shirt.
One thing he couldn’t do was find someone to take his dog, a full-blooded German shepherd named Rusty. He walked up and down Gilbert’s Ferry Road trying to find someone to take care of the shell-shocked dog with a deep cut on his snout.
Neighbors found the dog wandering the road past midnight, missing his makeshift leash and tagging along with passersby.
“A lot of stuff went on today,” Smith said. “I never seen nothing like it in my whole life. Probably never see it again. Hope not.”