Tornado cleanup continues

Published 2:26 am Thursday, August 6, 2020

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Brandon House Furniture owner David Carter had just managed to get to sleep when his wife woke him up around 3 a.m. Tuesday, telling him she thought a tornado was right over top of them.

It turned out not to be the case — “just the wind blowing,” he said — but a couple of calls soon after let him know that one of the two tornadoes confirmed to have touched down in Suffolk tore apart the store he co-owns with his sister, Carolyn Wright.

He got a call from his security company letting him know of broken glass in front of the store at 219 W. Washington St. Thinking it could have been from Tropical Storm Isaias, Carter told them not to call police. He got another call from an ex-employee. That person heard a police report of damage there, and drove by to take photos and send them to Carter.

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That got Carter out of his house, and to the store with his son, Brandon, around 4 a.m. The city’s Emergency Communications had received a notification of a tornado at 3:44 a.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief of Technical Services Brian Spicer.

What they saw with their own eyes was stunning in its ferocity — large, gaping holes in its normally durable mansard slate roof. “It wasn’t durable enough for this tornado, though,” Carter said. “It just ripped into it, chewed it up.” All of its glass windows were shattered, scattering glass, debris and water all over the floor. The water was still dripping down into buckets more than a day later.

“There’s nothing you can do. It was over, but there’s no fixing it,” David Carter said.

He placed a call to his insurance company, explained what was going on, and an adjuster was at the store later that morning.

“It’s been a challenge to say the least,” David Carter said. “It’s been a shock to come down and find out your building’s about tore up and everything, water leaking inside, roof’s been pulled off, front’s been blown off.”

Ever since, he’s been busy trying to clear furniture out of the store and bring crews in to clean it up, and arrange for it to be inspected to determine the extent of the damage so it can rebuild.

Sleep? Precious little.

“Night before last, I had no sleep,” David Carter said. “Last night I had a hard time getting to sleep.”

He was up by 7 a.m. Wednesday, back at the store continuing the cleanup process.

“We’re trying to work everything out now,” David Carter said.

The Brandon House’s current home had been bought about 20 years ago during a foreclosure sale. Renowned furniture magnate George Thornton Jr., who had purchased a two-thirds interest in H.I. Jaffee Furniture Company in Suffolk, and bought or opened 12 more stores and a central warehouse, merging nine Thornton stores and 18 Heilig-Meyers Stores, had owned the building previously.

“We’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” David Carter said. “No one was hurt or killed.”

What’s next?

The store is going back to its roots, across the street to 248 W. Washington St., where it had been previously. Though that location was also damaged and needs work, it will not require as much to get it operational and open for business, David Carter said.

“We’re planning to rebuild,” Brandon Carter said. “It’s going to take some time, and, we’ve got to get it straight. It’s just a bump in the road.”