Neighborhood bouncing back after Johns Island tornado

Resident Julie Bercik and a friend, Hilary Benjamin, look over Bercik’s home after a tornado slammed Sonny Boy Lane on Johns Island on Sept. 25.

JOHNS ISLAND — Things look like they are getting back to normal on Sonny Boy Lane months after that fateful night when a terrifying twister with 130 mph winds slammed into the neighborhood.

Hard-hit residents John and Julie Bercik and Ryan and Chelsea Meadows are rebuilding their homes and looking forward to moving back soon.

Bercik, 56, who writes software for the U.S. Department of State, said that he and his wife were lucky to survive the storm that destroyed their house.

“The next morning, when I knew all these news crews were coming out, I put on my little yellow shirt that said ‘Life Is Good,’ ” he said.

The Berciks will occupy their new home later this month, he said.

It will be another three or four months before the Meadows can return to Sonny Boy Lane, Ryan Meadows said.

He was a welcome sight for the Berciks in the aftermath of the storm.

“Within a minute my neighbor was outside with his flashlight going through an incredible amount of dangerous debris to get to us,” Bercik said.

Ryan Meadows, 32, found two dead deer in his front yard. He and his family came through the storm unscathed. He is the owner and operator of Meadows Pool & Spa.

The storm claimed Bercik’s 500-CD collection. Fragments of it still show up around the neighborhood.

“We’re still picking up Fleetwood Mac,” he said.

The Berciks took shelter in a master bedroom closet with their two dogs when the tornado hit around 1 a.m. Sept. 25.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Bercik said.

Across the street, the Meadows raced with their 1-year-old daughter into a downstairs coat closet. Ryan Meadows tried to close the closet door but it was ripped away by the living room couch as it flew past, he said.

“We had no furniture left on the first floor. Not one single thing was left on the first floor,” he said.

Both men described the telltale roar of the tornado as it hit. Bercik said it sounded like a freight train. Meadows likened it to a jetliner taking off.

Ryan Meadows said his house shook as if in an earthquake. Then the back side blew off. Bercik walked from the master bedroom to the kitchen to see appliances fallen into the crawl space and the walls and ceiling gone.

Ryan Meadows said the thought crossed his mind that those terrifying moments at the height of the storm could be his last.

“You make some peace with things for sure,” he said.

The Berciks were in bed when weather alerts sounded on the kitchen phone. John Bercik at first thought it was a flood warning but things quickly turned ominous. He never got past the master bedroom door.

“The middle of the house was gone. It was pouring down rain on my head. It was swirling like you wouldn’t believe. There was stuff everywhere,” he said.

In the tornado aftermath, the Meadows found their poodle in their upstairs bedroom where the only piece of furniture left was a dresser.

“The roof was gone. Most of the walls were gone,” Ryan Meadows said.

The dog apparently hid under the dresser to ride out the tornado.

“She came out completely unharmed,” he said.

The tornado was on the ground for nearly 7 miles, according to the National Weather Service. No injuries or deaths were reported. Most of the damage happened on Sonny Boy Lane, although pine trees were snapped all along the path.

The Bercik and Meadows homes were hit hard, but others were affected, too.

“Most had their shingles replaced, many had roofs and most windows replaced and many are still fixing internal damage. Some neighbors lost over 50 big trees on their lot,” Bercik said.

On Sonny Boy Lane, the woods are dotted with trees snapped in two. They serve as another reminder for Bercik of the stormy night that could have turned out so differently for him. He could have stepped in the kitchen a few moments before the tornado shredded it. Now, though, his new home is near completion.

“It’s very humbling for sure,” he said.