The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Residents escape unharmed after harrowing brush with storm's fury

Staff Writer

Jim Helman was working in his office at PC Haven in Fayetteville Tuesday night when the roof fell in on him. Literally.

A tornado ripped through Fayetteville shortly before 8 p.m. and damaged the computer store as well as the Fayetteville Pharmacy next door, at the intersection of Ga. Highway 85 and E. Georgia Avenue.

The hardest hit of all was not either of the store owners, but Robyn Miller, an elementary school teacher who was in her car on the highway when the roof came flying off.

The large piece of roof hit the aforementioned power pole and split into three pieces, one of which landed on her 1998 Honda Accord as she was driving it. She was facing north, waiting to turn right and go to the post office.

“The rain started immediately — just sheets of it,” she said. “The car in front of me stopped, I looked up and just saw the roof coming at me.”

A two-by-four came through her sun roof and another piece of wood smashed her back windshield. Her front windshield was broken by the roof of the building.

The power lines came down on her car, and she was stuck inside, with rain pouring down on her through the broken windows. A piece of plywood rested on the driver's side window, which fortunately kept anything larger from coming through there and hurting her.

Miller called her husband on her cell phone, and he called 911. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene quickly, she said, but they instructed her to remain in the car while they removed the power lines.

Jessica Ables, a recent graduate of Fayette County High School, also called 911 after seeing Miller's situation. She and two friends were driving to a movie when they pulled off the highway at E. Georgia Avenue because of the rain. “You couldn't see the car in front of you,” she said.

One of Ables' friends, who had recently moved here from Minnesota, sat dumbfounded in the back seat because she had never seen weather of this nature, Jessica said. The girls waited a little while for emergency help to arrive, then had to wait for Georgia Power crews to come and move some of the power lines before it was safe for them to move their car again.

Miller spent a total of about 45 minutes soaking in her car before she was rescued. Her husband tried to drive to her aid, but he was stopped on Hwy. 85 just south of the scene by a tree that had fallen onto the highway in front of Dunkin Donuts. He got out of his car and ran the rest of the way, she said.

Her car does not have a single panel that has not been dented or damaged in some way, she said, but she miraculously escaped with only a small scratch on her hand — and the guaranteed best “How I spent my summer vacation” story the students and faculty at Peeples Elementary School will hear this fall.

Pharmacy owners Ron and Pam Pendergraft were working under makeshift lights Wednesday afternoon, as they were without electrical power or telephone service. PC Haven owner Helman, whose power comes from the opposite side of the building, allowed the Pendergrafts to hook up to his store.

Helman said damage on his side was negligible, due mostly to water leaking in after the storm hit and took off a good-sized portion of the building's roof. He reopened for business around noon Thursday.

The pharmacy may take a few days longer. Pam Pendergraft said that she and her husband came back to their store just after the storm, thanks to a call from Helman. Both businesses close at 7 p.m. weekdays, so there were no customers around and no one was hurt.

The pharmacy's insurance company was to take inventory late this week and determine how much of a loss has been sustained.

Power was out because of a pole just outside the building that was hit by the roof when it came off. That pole was replaced Thursday morning, but another accident almost occurred, according to Ron Pendergraft, when workers were stringing the power lines back across Hwy. 85 and an 18-wheeler came up the road, grabbing a portion of the unattached line

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