Homeowner talks EF-1 tornado hitting Lake Lanier

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – There’s still a lot of cleaning up to do for the folks living on Lake Lanier. The National Weather Service confirms an EF-1 tornado was responsible for the massive damage left behind.

“When I was 12 years old, I told my Dad that I want to live on water one day and he said if you want it bad enough you’ll do it. So we did,” said homeowner Jim Bickelhaupt.

It was the dream home he made a reality with his wife Susan 25 years ago.

“We transformed it into a very nice house we sided it, we re did, remodeled everything,” he said. “Made it our own home and it’s been great, and the grand-kids love to come here in the summertime.”

Everything changed this past Sunday.

“We were in Atlanta on business,” he recalled. “We had two more days to complete when I got a phone call that our house had blown away.”

He says they rushed back to find their home ripped apart.

“Heart just dropped,” he said. “Most of what was inside the house was destroyed.”

The roof was torn off and trees toppled onto a workshop and two vehicles.

“We’re thankful to be alive and the man upstairs made sure we weren’t here,” said Bickelhaupt, as tears filled his eyes.

Trees also came crashing down at other Lake Lanier properties. Homeowners were cleaning up Tuesday and linemen worked to restore power.

“It was surprising, I’ll say that,” said homeowner S.J. McClure.

Fortunately for the Bickelhaupts, it spared irreplaceable family photos. He says another silver lining were the friends and strangers who came to help.

“It’s just great. You just can’t imagine how good it felt,” he said. “We know a lot of people on the lake, and we now know a lot more that we didn’t know.”

It’s the feeling motivating this family to push forward.

“Thankful is probably the best word, but yeah, it’ll sink in sooner or later,” said Bickelhaupt. “We’ll make it through it, made a lot of memories here. We hope to rebuild.”

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the tornado tracked north-northeast after touching down near West Lake Shore Drive for 1/4 to  half a mile before lifting with a path width of 100 to 200 yards. It then touched down again in Tryon on Melrose Avenue. The NWS says both touchdowns had winds of 95 miles per hour.

Several counties in South Carolina were also hit by tornadoes on Sunday.