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Storm rips through area, destroys property in rural Rowan County

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
WOODLEAF ó Chris Wagner retreated to his house on Woodleaf-Barber Road when he saw a storm bearing down about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The sky turned black. For several minutes, Mother Nature blasted the Wagner property for all she was worth, dumping torrential rain and golf ball-sized hail. Wind kicked like nobody’s business.
“That wind was blaring,” Wagner said. “It was something to behold.”
After staying hunkered down inside for several minutes until the storm dissipated, Wagner and his wife, Sue, emerged to find more damage than they could have imagined.
Maple and Bradford pear trees in their yard snapped like toothpicks. A porch attached to a garage behind the Wagners’ house was ripped loose, its remnants deposited in a field out back.
The Wagners live in a stretch of four houses, all of which belong to relatives ó Wagner’s brother, James, on one side and his mother Margaret’s property on the other. Past her house is the house belonging to Chris’ daughter, Annette Hipp.
For a stretch of 300 yards or so, the storm had done major damage ó ripping the the roof and a wall from a cinder block building,
destroying a barn and generally displaying the kind of force that few seldom witness firsthand.
A single cinder block was deposited a good 50 yards from the building to which it had been attached.
“Yep, tore it up,” Chris said, shaking his head as he surveyed the damage. “Yep, tore it up.”
The storm was part of a fast-moving front that crossed Rowan County from west to east. Trees in several parts of the county were downed.
Duke Energy reported as many as 1,322 customers without power around 6:30 p.m. Duke reported restoring power to all those customers later in the evening.
Chris’ daughter, Annette, is a teacher at Cleveland Elementary and, like her father, hurried inside as the storm approached.
“It was worse by far than when (Hurricane) Hugo came through,” Annette said. “All you could hear was the beating of the hail.”
Afterwards, about 15 family members and neighbors gathered to assess the damage and count their blessings that no one was hurt.
“I think we had a little tornado,” said Annette’s 17-year-old daughter, Anna.
Others disagreed. Anna’s uncle, James, said he thought the damage came from “straight-line wind.” He said he didn’t see anything resembling a tornado.
Andrew Kimball, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said much the same. He said radar displayed “no real strong signatures of a tornado” in western Rowan County.
“We didn’t issue a tornado warning,” Kimball said, though he said his office did field a few phone calls from individuals who reported seeing funnel clouds in the area.
One of the individuals who saw such clouds was Troy Huss, who said he pulled into the parking lot of IGA in Cleveland to watch and take pictures with his camera phone. “There were lots of updrafts,” Huss said.
At the Wagners’ property, family members marveled as much at what the storm didn’t damage as what it did.
In the cinder block building that was destroyed was parked a classic Chevrolet El Camino that was awaiting a brake job.
“Not a scratch on it,” said James Wagner, managing a smile as he spoke.
Then he wondered aloud at how strong winds would have to blow to peel the roof from a building and level a cinder block wall.
“I thought that would have been the safest place around,” James said of the cinder block structure.
He said it wasn’t just the major damage that affected him and other family members.
“My pretty little garden is gone, too,” James said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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