County cleaning up in wake of storms

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Staff report
Maintenance crews and residents are continuing to clean up the damage from storms that tore through Rowan County early Tuesday morning.
The severe thunderstorms brought wind gusts of up to 70 miles an hour and caused widespread power outages. Thousands of county homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday evening, and Duke Energy said some may not have electricity restored until Thursday night.
According to Rowan County Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason, maintenance crews with the N.C. Department of Transportation, numerous local fire departments, the N.C. Forestry Service and municipality street departments worked throughout the early-morning hours Tuesday clearing roads. Many of them continued throughout the day.
Thomason said there were “numerous trees blocking roadways all over the county,” with many downed trees involving power lines.
At Duke Energy’s height of outages, nearly 16,000 people in Rowan County were without electricity. Nearly 7,000 Rowan customers and 233 Cabarrus County customers continued to be without power at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening.
The company said it expects to have power restored to most Rowan County customers by 11 p.m. Thursday, and many will regain power sooner.
Blair Holloway, a representative from the National Weather Service, said it does not plan to do a tornado damage survey because the damage was caused by straight line winds.
“The winds were quite strong, anywhere from 60 to 70 miles per hour,” Holloway said.
Thomason said the storm wreaked the most havoc in the northwestern part of Rowan, including West Locke, Mt. Ulla, Bear Poplar, Cleveland and Woodleaf areas. But Thomason said there was significant damage across the county, including a handful of reports in eastern Rowan.
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Winds toppled trees in Gold Hill, downing power lines and closing St. Stephen’s Church Road.
The old Gold Hill Post Office, which now houses Frankie Harrison’s store the Gold Miner’s Daughter, narrowly avoided damage when the top of an old cedar tree snapped and fell beside the building.
Near Gold Hill on Old Beatty Ford Road, a hickory tree limb fell on the front porch and roof of Southern Grace. Also on Old Beatty Ford, an oak tree fell and narrowly missed Brenda Shue’s house, but crushed a small car shed and her 2006 Chevrolet HHR.

Richard Kolbasowski said he and his wife Gloria never went to sleep Monday at their home on Brookwood Drive in Granite Quarry. The creek near their house frequently floods under heavy rains and the couple have been forced to evacuate numerous times in the past few years.
“So we stay awake when there’s a big storm, and we heard it coming, and it was amazing,” Kolbasowski said Tuesday afternoon. “I mean it was loud.”
The storm downed about 10 trees on their property, including one that fell on the kennel where they keep their dogs, Sandy and Susie. The dogs were inside with the couple during the storm.

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A local state of emergency was declared at 10 a.m. Tuesday to allow for certain sections of the county’s emergency operations plan to complete damage assessments and damage recovery.
About 35 damage reports had been taken by assessment crews Tuesday afternoon, which Thomason called “fairly significant.”
Thomason said the assessments will allow the county to share collected data with the state disaster recovery officials, who will determine whether or not the county will qualify for disaster recovery assistance, including low-interest loans or individual assistance grants.
The state disaster team could eventually end up in Rowan this week to “further quantify and qualify” information the county’s already collected, and revisit sites, Thomason said.
And it’s very likely the county will discover new damage between now and the time the state’s team comes to Rowan, if they come.
“We had citizens that suffered significant damage to their residences, roof damage, tree damage, and we’ve had some commercial businesses that have suffered damage also,” Thomason said. “I’m sure everyone has been making phone calls to their insurance companies today.”
Because of the large volume of calls, some local residents said their insurance companies told them it may be a while before a repres-entative can come out to assess property damage. A couple said they were advised to take photos to record the damage.
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John Gurtowski heard a loud crack around 2:15 a.m.
When Gurtowski ventured outside his home at 712 S. Church St. a few hours later, he discovered a tree behind the house had uprooted and fallen over, caving in the passenger side of his wife Charlotte’s car and taking out sections of their fence.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s going to cry,’ ” Gurtowski said of the reaction he expected from his wife when he told her about the damage to her 2005 Chrysler Concorde, which had shattered windows and flattened at least one tire. “She was a little upset.”
Gurtowski said as bad as it was, he was thankful the storm didn’t bring down a 19-foot-round tree in the front yard that has huge branches hanging over the house.
A large tree uprooted and fell onto the garage of a home on Goodnight Road in western Rowan County.
Another tree fell onto a home at 275 Gwenn St. off U.S. 70, but the porch took most of the impact.
Joan Benfield said her husband, Billy, was sleeping on the side of the house where she heard a crash in the early morning.
“I hollered at him, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘That wasn’t me,’” Benfield said.
When she looked outside, she saw that the 50-year-old tree in their yard had split near the base and crashed onto the porch.
It also pinned down a telephone line, but the house didn’t lose power.
“We knew the tree was dead,” Benfield said. “We’d been planning on getting it cut down, but we never did get around to it,”
Benfield said she and her husband love to sit out on the porch on nice days. The tree crumpled its metal awning, bent its support beams and caused some damage to the roof of the house, but Benfield thanks God it didn’t do worse.
“If our porch hadn’t been there,” she said, “it would have came down on my husband’s bed.”

Power outage checklist
Food safety
• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours.
• Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
• Use non?perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
• If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
• Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
• If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.
Electrical equipment
• Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
• Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
• Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
• Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.
• When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
• If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
Source: American Red Cross