Oxford resident Pamela Wheeler ran the Peachtree Road Race on Friday before her family traveled to Gulf Shores, Ala. to visit her in-laws. On Saturday, the family returned from vacation prematurely to find a large sweet gum tree inside their master bedroom.
Some time during the early afternoon on Saturday, a storm ripped through the family's back yard, uprooting more than two dozen large trees and severely damaging the roof. Making matters worse, the Wheeler's just recovered from hail damage done to the home in March.
"These guys were out here about a month and a half ago and put on a brand new roof," Wheeler said referring to the work crew on the roof.
Since the family had just been through storm damage stemming from the bad hail storm, Wheeler said her neighbor was reluctant to inform her of Saturday's storm. Instead the neighbor contacted her brother-in-law to break the news.
"We just laughed when we heard the news," Wheeler said. "What else are you going to do? It's either laugh or cry. But we are glad we weren't home."
According to another neighbor, who captured the events on security cameras, the storm lasted less than five minutes.
"They told us it began raining then turned to a fog before the rain turned to sheets and the wind started really bending the trees," Wheeler said. "It looks like it was a downburst that came through here."
While the downed tree limb damaged the house, the storm devastated the family's back yard. What once was a nice grove of large poplar and sweet gum trees now resembles a battlefield.
Amazingly, her husband's 1962 Cadillac, which he parks in the driveway, escaped with nothing more than a bent antenna. Signs of tree debris, including leaves and limbs surrounded the vintage Caddy but the car survived with just the minimum amount of damage.
Wheeler knows the house can be fixed and a new antenna for her husband's car is a drop in the bucket compared to what it would have cost had a tree smashed it. The trees are the biggest loss as it will take decades to recover the landscape that made the lot so appealing.
"I feel terrible about losing all those trees," Wheeler said. "They can't be replaced. We bought this property because of the trees."
The Wheeler's, who are in the midst of selling the house, hope the recent events don't have an adverse impact on their insurance rates.
"This is the second claim in four months so I hope the insurance company doesn't cancel us," Wheeler said.
Nevertheless, Wheeler is looking at the positives and said the damage done to her house will help contractors who have been short of work due to the stagnate housing market.
"We were saying in March, if you were going to have a storm, this is the best kind to have," she said. "It doesn't devastate but it sort of puts a boost in the economy to help the roofers and other contractors who have been out of work." The Wheelers weren't the only ones in Oxford to experience storm damage. According to Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield, the county received three calls related to lightning strikes and two homes believed to have been struck.
The NCFD responded, finding one of the homes with a damaged circuit breaker while no fire damage was found at the other two.
According to reports at the Oxford City Council Monday meeting, the storm knocked out power in three neighborhoods. Power crews repaired the damages from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Michelle Kim contributed to this story.