Troy Bell of Beauregard’s Bell Automotive says he will rebuild

2019-03-06 Tornadoes hit Lee County

By Morgan Bryce

Beauregard resident Troy Bell’s Sunday afternoon nap on March 3 was interrupted by the buzz of his cell phone, alerting him that severe weather was imminent.
Scrambling to his television, Bell said he turned it on as reports of a tornado on the ground and headed in his direction. While attempting to gather his family and move them to a safe place, he stood on his back porch and observed the storm in the distance, a dark, hideous wedge of wind that would later be classified as EF-4 tornado nearly a mile in width and sustained winds of 170 miles per hour.
“It was just a big, black monster. Most of the ones you see are skinny and have a narrow base, but this one was just wide and ugly,” Bell said. “You could see everything turning dark, but more than anything, you could hear it.”
While closing his bathroom door, Bell witnessed the storm engulf the building that housed his livelihood, an automotive shop next door that he has owned and operated at 2500 Lee Road 165 for the last 26 years. For the next 30 to 40 seconds, Bell said he and his family spent what felt like an eternity hearing the heart of the storm swirl above them.
“That house was shaking, popping and cracking. We heard two loud slams against the side and I told my daughter, ‘that’s your trailer trying to climb on top of this house,’” Bell said.
His daughter’s trailer remained mostly intact. Another nearby mobile home was still standing while a neighbor’s brick home was obliterated.
The structure that housed Bell Automotive was nothing but a shell. Its roof was missing and a side wall had collapsed on top of his camper.
“I was shocked when I saw what had happened, because that’s my livelihood and how I make a living right there. That building has survived hurricanes and straight-line winds with only some minimal roof damage, nothing we couldn’t handle … but we weren’t so fortunate this time,” Bell said.
Utilizing a jacklift, Bell and others were able to lift the wall off of the camper and use its power as the area descended into complete darkness.
The business’s next chapter seemed in doubt in the days after the storm, but longtime friend and fellow Beauregard resident Mark Hightower offered Bell a space to operate his business while he rebuilds.
“One thing is for sure, I’m going to invest in a storm shelter to go with this new shop,” Bell said.
While none of Bell’s family or friends were among the 23 casualties, he said the storm helped him realize how precious life is.
“What I’ve been telling people is that every morning you wake up, it might be your day to go. Love your family and friends because you never know what might happen,” Bell said.
For more information or updates on the shop’s hours and location, call Bell at 334-740-0036.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here