Lowe's employees save lives as tornado hits

Credit: AP

Debris dangles from power lines and covers cars in the parking lot of a destroyed Lowe's Home Improvement Center Saturday, April 16 2011, in Sanford, N.C. Homes and businesses were badly damaged Saturday by a severe storm system that whipped across North Carolina, bringing flash floods, hail and reports of tornadoes from the western hills to the streets of Raleigh. In the Lee County town of Stanford, a Lowe's Home Improvement Center was smashed by the storm, according to police and witnesses. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Scott Sharpe)

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by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NewsChannel 36

Bio | Email | Follow: @MichelleBoudin

WCNC.com

Posted on April 18, 2011 at 6:11 PM

SANFORD, N.C. -- Everyone inside a Lowe’s store when the tornadoes hit on Saturday made it out okay thanks to some quick-thinking workers.

The home improvement store is headquartered in Mooresville. On Monday, the executives in Mooresville spent the day trying to help the workers who helped the customers.

The images have been everywhere. Pictures of the flattened Lowe’s store tell the larger story of how truly crushing this tornado was.

“We could actually feel the wind as we reached the back of the building,” said Gery Hendricks. Hendricks was checking out when he saw the funnel cloud barreling towards the store.

There were about 100 employees and customers inside at the time.

“I turned around and looked at the cashier and said is that a tornado?”

As the funnel cloud headed straight for their Sanford store, the manager and assistant manager had barely more than a minute to herd everyone to a break room in the back -- as far from the windows as possible. They made it there with just seconds to spare.

“The training became instinct at that point. Yeah, you review training, but you can't train for something like this, not for that kind of reaction time and until you go through it, it's just phenomenal,” said Assistant Manager Bobby Gibson.

Gibson and Hendricks described the ordeal on the Today Show Monday morning. They said the store ended up in pieces around them, but not a single life was lost.

“The Lowe's employees saved everyone by their quick action and we're here for that reason. They need to get the just deserves!”

“It is amazing everyone walked away, there were no serious injuries, and that really our thoughts  now are on how to get them back to their normal life,” Lowe’s Vice President of Benefits Kyle Wendt said. “It was very emotional because when you look at that Lowe’s store you see your stuff and you’re a part of that and you do start thinking about the employees and the customers.”

Lowe’s is already working to make sure each of the 190 people who worked there will still collect a paycheck and trying to find them jobs at other Sanford area stores.

“It was everybody working together...not one or two people, everybody just instinct kicking in and people taking care of people.”

The company also has what’s called an employee relief fund. It's something almost everyone contributes to on a regular basis. The Lowe’s workers in Sanford are now being encouraged to take advantage of it. 

 

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