Storms down trees, leave thousands without power in Rowan
By Jessie Burchette and Susan Shinn
A massive wave of thunderstorms swept across the county Thursday evening, downing trees and leaving thousands without power.
While most of the power outages were in western Rowan, Salisbury saw the worst damage.
Downed trees or large branches blocked dozens of streets and brought down utility lines.
Some trees fell on houses and cars, but there were no life-threatening situations.
The Salisbury Fire Department scrambled to respond to dozens of calls starting shortly before 6 p.m.
“Damage is widespread,” said the department’s Division Chief David Morris.
Among the hardest hit areas were Maupin Avenue and Mitchell Avenue, an area between South Main Street, Mooresville Road and Lincolnton Road.
Residents on the east side of town along Bringle Ferry Road, Arlington Street and Martin Luther King Avenue also saw damage.
“We’ve been covered up. All the Salisbury units are out,” Morris said, adding that Granite Quarry was assisting, along with the Salisbury Police Department and city street crews.
Morris said one or two people were transported by Rowan EMS for storm-related injuries, but none appeared to be serious.
The storm topped a large Maple wrapped in ivy at 408 S. Fulton St., partially blocking the street.
Martha Hawkins wasn’t at home when the tree fell. She and her grandson, Sam Spencer, peered into the large hole in the yard. The ivy wrappings had concealed a dead and rotting trunk.
Drivers maneuvered around the tree on Fulton Street and trees on dozens of other streets.
Drivers slowed on Lincolnton Road to look at a tree that fell on a house.
Phil Ingram, of 1017 Lincolnton Road, next door to the damaged house, said the house was vacant.
Ingram said his son was looking out the window during the storm. He told the family there was a “big flower falling.”
The tree in Ingram’s yard fell on the adjacent house.
The storm felled a large pine tree, which fell from the yard of Jim and Lucinda Epperson into Swaim Court. The Eppersons live in Castlewood, off Jake Alexander Boulevard.
The tree went down around 6 p.m., and Wayne Allen and son Bobby from One on One Tree Experts were on the scene shortly thereafter with a chainsaw and a wood chipper.
By 7 p.m., only the large trunk of the tree remained, the cul-de-sac cleared.
The duo continued to work into the waning light as the rains kept coming and the thunder rumbled.
City crews were stationed in some of the worst areas to cordon off blocked streets and keep motorists and pedestrians away from live electrical wires.
Because of the volume of calls and incidents, the fire department set up an operations center at Station 1 on East Innes Street. Off-duty command personnel, including Chief Bob Parnell, came in to prioritize the calls.
Morris said the damage was typical of a storm producing heavy rains, bursts of winds and hail.
In some areas of town asphalt streets were carpeted in green leaves.
In addition to the downed trees and utility lines, Morris said some streets were temporarily blocked off because of high water. In some places, the drainage system couldn’t handle the sudden burst of heavy rains.
At 6:55 p.m., Duke Energy reported 4,882 customers in Rowan County were without power. By 7:30, the number had grown to 4,909.
Duke Energy crews responded to sites all over town dealing with the downed lines.
Around 8:30 p.m. Morris said all city resources were being focused on dealing with the storm, the aftermath and the cleanup.
“We’re trying to take care of our citizens and start the clean-up process,” he said.
While western areas of the county didn’t get the downed trees, many homes were in the dark.
Duke Energy’s Web site showed the largest block of outages along N.C. 150 west of Salisbury.
John Morrison, chief of the West Rowan Fire Department, said outages covered an area reaching from Centenary Church Road to Atwell, Corriher Grange Road and N.C. 152.
Morrison said the first power outages came around 4:40 p.m. as the storms swept through on the way to Salisbury.
By 10 p.m., 4,491 customers were still without power.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.