Winds whip through county

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
ROCKWELL — Larry Earnhardt was fast asleep when he heard a cracking sound and then a loud boom. When he looked to where the noise was coming from he saw a tree that had once provided shade now split in half.
The strong winds that tore through the eastern part of the county had wreaked havoc, ripping the large maple tree down to the trunk. The tree fell partially onto his house and the other half in the backyard.
Earnhardt, who lives on Salisbury Street, was awakened at nearly 4:30 Thursday morning. He’s lived at the home for about 26 years and has always had that tree behind his house.
“The tree is probably older than the house, it was built in 1958,” Earnhardt said.
“The birds and squirrels are going crazy,” he said.
The tree was where birds made their nests, he recalled fondly, and the tree provided shade to his patio.
Now retired, he would often sit on the patio and watch the birds fly by and the squirrels scamper about.
Earnhardt said he was lucky his bedroom is on the other end of the house.
The unfortunate part of the tree coming down was he just repaired his roof in December and will likely have to make new repairs.
The tree covered much of the back side of his house.
“I’ll have to get blinds,” he joked.
The tree is so large, Earnhardt can’t possibly remove it himself. He’s already gotten estimates from tree removal companies.
Earnhardt’s neighbor, Betty Barnhardt, said she had some limbs in her yard, but nothing like the tree that fell next door.
“It’s no big problem. It’s minor,” she said.
The National Weather Service said the winds overnight reached about 40 mph, some of the strongest reported around 4:15 a.m. Thursday.
Meteorologist Bob Bruce said residents can expect the weekend to be quite calm, but thunderstorms are expected to return Monday.
“It looks like Monday night. There’s 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms,” he said.
Ruby Poole, owner of Wanda’s Beauty Shop located on U.S. 52, said the limbs, leaves and wind reminded her of Hurricane Hugo.
“It is a mess. My yard at the beauty shop and at my house looks like when Hugo came through,” she said.
Julian Sides of Rockwell was one of those residents cleaning up after the storm tore through a tree in his yard.
Sides and friend Larry Fesperman spent about an hour cutting the rest of the tree limbs and made plans to haul off the debris.
“That’s really the only damage,” Sides said.
At its peak, Duke Energy reported 3,400 people in Rowan County without electricity around 6 a.m. Thursday, spokeswoman Betsy Conway said.
Once storm conditions were safe, crews began restoring power as quickly as possible, Conway said.
“The damage was primarily structural — some poles and wires down,” she said.
Conway did warn people about staying away from downed powerlines.
“If they see wire down they should stay away. Treat them as live and keep their pets and children away,” Conway said.
Call Duke Energy to report a downed powerline or power outage at 800-769-3766.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.