Severe storm brings down trees, power lines

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2013

SALISBURY — Strong wind gusts brought trees down onto power lines, roads, cars and homes during Thursday afternoon’s severe thunderstorm.
Emergency communications reported that several trees had fallen at locations across the county. Thousands of businesses and households lost electricity as power lines fell, too.
Just one storm-related incident was reported to cause injuries Thursday.
Two people were taken to the hospital after a tree fell on a car around 4:30 p.m. in the 4300 block of South Main Street near Peach Orchard Road.
The blue Mustang convertible appeared to keep driving after it was hit, eventually running into a large shrub on the opposite side of the road. Its soft-top roof was closed.
The names of the two people in the car were not released Thursday evening. According to emergency communications, the driver was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, while the passenger went to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center with minor injuries.
The tree also took down a power line on South Main Street, shutting down traffic lights at multiple intersections.
Duke Energy reported 7,673 power outages in Rowan County at 6:30 p.m. By 7:30 p.m., it reported 7,204. According to its website, most outages were located in the southern part of the county near U.S. 29 and N.C. 152.
EnergyUnited reported approximately 12,000 members of the cooperative without power at 9 p.m. Half of those were in Iredell County and another 2,000 in Davidson County. “At the peak, we had upwards of 16,000 outages,” H. Wayne Wilkins, EnergyUnited CEO, said in a news release.
Union Power Cooperative reported 5,027 outages in Cabarrus and another 30 in Rowan after the worst of the storm.
Crews were working to restore power Thursday evening.
Duke Energy customers can call 1-800-POWERON to report outages and get an estimated time of restoration.
Emergency crews responded to a tree reported on houses in the 700 block of Victory Street, in the 1400 block of Parkview Circle, on Dollie Circle off South Main Street and on Old Concord Road in the Bostian Heights community.
Janet Evans, who rents a house on Parkview Circle, said she was in the shower when she heard a loud noise.
“My daughter came in and said, ‘Mom, something fell on the house,’ ” Evans said. “At first, I thought I’d heard a clap of thunder.”
But when she walked out of the front door, she saw thick branches and leaves.
One of the two large trees in her front yard had uprooted and fallen onto the corner of her house. The awning over the front porch was crumpled, and the roof and chimney were damaged.
“There’s a crack all the way across the living room ceiling,” Evans said.
She said the tree may have been dying already, because its roots were wide but shallow, and it had no visible taproot.
The Salisbury Fire Department responded to a report of a possible fire, but what Evans saw were sparks from the live power line that the tree took down with it. The firefighters helped put down a covering on the inside of her house to prevent water damage.
Evans said she’s thankful that no one was hurt. She lives in the home with her husband Bill, their 18-year-old daughter Carly and three cats.
One of the cats, Skippy, was still missing early Thursday evening. He is white with gray tiger-style stripes and some spots. Evans said he gets scared easily.
“I’m just happy we’re all right,” she said.
Leroy Propst was inside the house he rents off Victory Street when, around 4:30, a gust of wind sent a tree crashing down onto the front of the house.
“I heard a big thud,” Propst said.
He said part of the ceiling collapsed in the front of the house.
Across the yard from Propst, neighbor Brigitte Ferguson said she was out on the porch, watching the storm roll in. “I saw it fall and hit,” Ferguson said.
Propst was able to get out of the back door of his home, he said.
Salisbury Fire Department responded. There were no injuries.
“It could have been worse,” Propst said. “It could have come in and killed me.”
Propst said he’d been concerned for several years that the tree might fall.
A couple of blocks away, Skylaray Rebels said she had been looking out the door of the Wiley School Apartments when the storm sent a tree crashing down onto the side of the building.
“It hit the windows, but didn’t break them,” Rebels said, standing outside on the porch with fellow residents. She said she’s lived in her apartment a little over a year.
“We definitely got lucky,” Rebels said. Rowan County Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason said 911 received about 200 calls between 4 and 7 p.m., and most were related to the storm.
A structure fire, apparently caused by a lightning strike, was reported in the Enochville community in the 1100 block of Emmanuel Street, he said.
Thomason said he didn’t have any confirmed wind reports Thursday evening, but weather forecasters were expecting winds of up to 50 mph — and possibly stronger gusts.
“We received three unconfirmed reports of tornadoes, but those three were not substantiated,” Thomason said. “We suspect those were straight-line winds and microbursts (strong, concentrated downdrafts that occur in thunderstorms).”
He said he’s relieved that the storm didn’t cause more people to get hurt in Rowan County.
“Given the widespread damage across the county that we experienced, from a personal injury standpoint, it certainly could have been much worse,” Thomason said.

Hugh Fisher contributed to this story.