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Storm pounds China Grove

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
A fierce storm swept through Rowan County around 7 p.m. Monday knocking down trees, power lines and heavily damaging a China Grove business.
More than 1,800 Duke Energy customers were without power around 8 p.m. Most appeared centered along a line from the Goodnight Road area through Shue Road into China Grove.
The storm cut a swath between five and eight miles long according to Frank Thomason, county emergency services director. He described it as one of the worst summer storms in several years in Rowan County.
Thomason said a meteorologist from the National Weather Service will join him to tour the area today to determine if any of the damage was caused by tornadoes.
Fire departments across the area scrambled to deal with broken limbs, downed trees and power lines. Several barns, pole barns and utility buildings were damaged.
There were no reports of injuries.
China Grove took a direct hit, with areas of the town without power. Police were handling traffic at intersections.
Trees down on power lines blocked North Main Street near the Church Street intersection in China Grove for several hours.
Grove Supply, a 59-year-old family business took a direct hit from the storm, which tore the roof off much of the building complex that stretches along U.S. 29.
The storm also ripped the roof off a warehouse building at the rear of the complex and crushed the brick walls.
Firefighters from Bostian Heights quickly arrived on the scene, but couldn’t search the buildings until the gas and electricity were cut off.
Mark Huffman, owner of Grove Supply, said the damage appears more extensive than that from a similar storm that hit the area 10 years ago.
Huffman said they replaced the roof after that storm. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it this time. It looks like there is a lot of structural damage.”
Eric Davis, a resident of Mount Hope Church Road, was driving north on U.S. 29 as the storm dealt its worst.
Davis said trees were bending over with branches hitting his car, and the wind was moving his car, eventually sending it into a ditch.
“It was so black you couldn’t see anything,” said Davis. He did see Grove Supply Building ripped apart.
Davis said he couldn’t tell whether there was a funnel cloud. “It was so dark you couldn’t tell.”
Huffman waited with emergency personnel to get a look inside the buildings.
He worried that a man who rented the warehouse in back might have been inside when the storm hit.
Firefighters were eventually able to search the building but found no one inside.
While surveying the damage at a distance, Huffman said the storm will cause a lot of people who work for Grove Supply to be out of work, such as the subcontractors who install floor coverings.
Among the customers waiting for installation is Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Huffman estimated the carpet and other materials for as many as 40 jobs were in the basement area.
Thomason checked the Grove Supply site Monday night. He said the brick building at the rear completely collapsed, with the first floor carpentry showroom collapsing into the basement metal shop.
The wind lifted the roof and carried it across the railroad tracks, dumping it on the east side.
The storm came out of northern Iredell County moving southeast and dipping into Rowan.
The first damage reports were in the Goodnight Road area off Mooresville Road.
The first report of damage came from Delbert Sorrell of 325 Mountain Road, where a tree fell on his carport.
Thomason said there were numerous reports of damage southeastward, including major hits in the 1400 block of Goodnight Road.
Earl Sawyer of 1420 Goodnight Road had one barn, estimated to be 30 feet by 30 feet, destroyed by the storm.
Winds ripped most of the roof off a much larger building on the Sawyer property.
Storm damages extended through China Grove and Landis into North Kannapolis, where a church roof was damaged. Several trees were reported down including at least one on a mobile home.
Thomason noted that over the past several years, the county has been peppered by isolated storms, but nothing packing this much wallop has struck since January 2005, when a storm leveled McKenzie Taxidermy on St. Luke’s Church Road. Damage from that storm was concentrated in a very small area.
Thomason said Monday night that all of the damage he had seen appeared to come from straight-line winds.

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