When hurricanes strike…

Or rather . . . when tornadoes strike!

I have to say as relatively easy as it was selling (the actual process… not moving) my house up in the DC area, my finally buying/closing/moving-in process down in the North Carolina was just the opposite. Murphy had definitely arrived on scene.

So in the seemingly comedy of errors that marked my arrival to NC, it definitely wasn’t a surprise that a week after closing on my NC house, along comes Hurricane Dorian!

Yes, call me crazy for moving to this area, but I had done a decent deal of research on this and even discussed hurricanes with the former airport manager. At 84 years young, he’s been around the airport for over 40 years and is still flying! He commented that the airport always came through without issue as he showed me how to batten down the hatches (aka hangar doors).

Well, since I had no Internet or TV at my place yet (which didn’t happen until after I arrived back from RR), I went up to Greensboro and stayed at Stacey’s house –who was in Italy doing a photoshoot. I still had a few things in her basement from Hurricane Florence, so decided since I had my new house in hand to finally pick up those things and get them back home.

When I arrived home the following day after Dorian had blown through, I found that there was little damage beyond the various tree limbs and debris in the yard.

However, early evening I got a call from Renee the airport manager saying that the airport got hit by a tornado generated by Dorian. All the new hangars with the “hurricane-proof” doors were fine, although in the path as well, but the old hangars were damaged significantly since the hanging/sliding barn-style doors just couldn’t withstand the force of the storm.

Worse still, she said mine was one of the hangars hit. She didn’t believe my airplane (fuselage) was damaged, but that my hangar was on her list of getting hit. In fact, over half of the 28 old-style hangars had been significantly damaged.

She asked that I and all the other owners stay away from our hangars, since the doors were in various precarious positions. She then, however, sent me a pic of the wrong hangar (not mine) and never got back to me with a shot of what was going on with my hangar.

I waited for a few hours for an update but then zipped over to the airport to take a look, despite her request not to…. Obviously I needed to know the state of my Long-EZ.

Below is a photo of what I found: the left side door –one of three– had been halfway ripped off. The ensuing gapping hole had allowed water to soak just about everything on that side of the hangar, which is where most of my project boxes were stored. [NOTE: I had grabbed my avionics and panel mock-up to secure them before the storm hit, and boy am I glad I did!]

I also took a look inside to ensure everything was ok, which it all appeared to be. I then tried to pick up some of the wet boxes but they were simply too wet to try to pick up without the bottom ripping through. I decided to let them dry out another 12 hours before salvaging the wet stuff.

The next day I arrived back mid-morning to get a much better look, after the crews had assessed and secured the doors. The following is what I found.

The panel in the foreground is the half of my left hangar door that was ripped off. Since the walls between our hangars are only 8 feet high, you can actually see daylight above my truck showing the doors off the hangar next to and behind mine.

Here is the back and side of my hangar, and next to it you can see the adjoining hangar with the doors completely ripped off and the airplane just sitting inside. Amazingly, this was a common site as primarily only the doors were ripped off and only one of dozens of airplanes were damaged.

Tracing the tornado’s track, it hit this side of the building and then continued on over my hangar building and hit the one across from with much more force than mine got hit. In fact, it appears my doors were blown out from the inside while many hangar doors were ripped completely off.

Note the black strip where the flashing is missing above this hangar door on the left side… this plays into this story here in a moment.

Here is the hangar across from mine. Not only did the doors received damage, but the side was blown out.

As you can see here.

Luckily this hangar did not have an airplane in it, but just an older car (aka 1970s “tank”) that appears to be undamaged.

This shot was taken at the back corner of my hangar, right outside the man-sized door that is on the back of mine. This is looking away from the main taxiway and runways.

Same back corner of my hangar, but looking towards the taxiway and runways.

Again, looking toward the taxiway and runways. The hangar on the end and to the right was the most damaged, and we believe the first to bear the brunt of the tornado… which actually hit on the side of the hangar, ripped an older ragwing airplane out of the hangar, spun it around while shredding the cloth covering off of it.

Some closeups of the ill-fated “first hit” hangar . . .

Some more examples of hangar damage caused by the tornado.

And back around to my hangar row. Luckily, beyond doors getting ripped off, and one significantly damaged airplane (and a lot of wet stuff) there was no significant damage to speak of.

Here’s a peak into my hangar. The box sitting on top of the black plastic shelf remained there during the entire storm, as did other lighter weight items that you’d certainly think would have been blown miles away.

The right half of the hangar was virtually unscathed although a few odd things turned out to be soaked over in this area, while other stuff was bone dry.

The one scary narrow-miss I had was this piece of 2 foot by 1 foot high piece of “frag”… which I think is that piece of flashing I mentioned above that was over the adjoining hangar door next to and on the aft-side of mine.

I found this big piece of metal flashing on the hangar floor sitting behind the big tall canopy shipping box that I have filled with blue wing foam (note red arrow). This spot is within 6 feet of my canopy and fuselage and it just makes me wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t had that tall box sitting were it was.

Also note that the thick plastic wrap on the canopy was ripped off and was on the floor drenched. I hung it over the left center spar to dry out.

Yes, this tornado (and hurricane) was a big PITA to deal with, especially a week after moving into my new house, but I am thankful that no real damage on either the house or airplane build occurred.

Bullet dodged.

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