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What’s in store today? Flo moves at a snail’s pace, keeps dumping rain

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Nothing was going to keep Tiffany Patrick from competing against other barbecue teams at the Biker Blues & BBQ — not even a hurricane.

“Even though there was going to be wind and rain,” Patrick said, “I don’t scare easy.”

Patrick packed her four smokers, meats and other necessities into a Penske rental truck and drove Thursday from her home in Frederick, Maryland. That was the same day Hurricane Florence was set to make landfall on the N.C. coast.

Patrick combined the eighth annual competition at Tilley Harley-Davidson in Salisbury with a visit to her sister in Lexington. Event coordinator Gary Moss found her a good cooking spot for Friday and Saturday.

She slept in the rental truck Friday night and planned to leave for home not long after the judging was over Saturday afternoon. Taking a break from her packing during a heavy downpour Saturday, Patrick noted it was sunny and 82 back in Frederick.

“I’ll be leaving here as soon as I get my awards,” Patrick said confidently and with a smile.

Tilley’s Biker Blues & BBQ was one of the few weekend events not canceled by what has now become tropical depression Florence, the effects of which slowly marched into Rowan County late Friday and promised to overstay its welcome into Monday, according to forecasters.

Gusts, sustained winds and heavier rain were predicted for Saturday night and most of today. Steve Monday of Rowan County Weather was sticking with his prediction Saturday of 9 to 11 inches through early Monday morning.

“The track’s pretty solid at this point, obviously,” Monday said about 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

A flash flood warning was issued for much of Rowan County. The uncertainty associated with the weather led to the delay again of the Rowan County Fair’s opening.

The fair was supposed to open Friday, but now fair officials are hoping for Monday.

Livingstone and Catawba colleges also said Saturday they will continue to be closed Monday. (See related stories.) Rowan-Salisbury Schools has not made a decision yet about Monday.

A hurricane when it hit the N.C. coast Thursday night, Florence has moved at a snail’s pace across the Carolinas.

“Right now it’s moving at 2 mph,” Monday said around midday Saturday. Rain from the outer bands of Florence first started affecting Rowan Friday night.

Monday and other forecasters warned that peak winds Saturday and early Sunday could reach 40 to 50 mph.

A “peak” wind or “gust” is one of at least 1 to 2 seconds duration. Sustained winds — those that last at least 10 seconds — could be 30 mph, Monday said.

The Rowan County Emergency Operations Center fielded close to 50 storm-related calls in a 24-hour period up to 5 p.m. Saturday. They dealt mostly with downed power lines and trees, along with electric outages.

On Saturday, Duke Energy steadily restored power to many of its Rowan County customers who experienced outages. As of 9:55 a.m. Saturday, Duke was reporting 450 customers with power outages (in 25 locations). That number was reduced to 293 by 12:15 p.m. and 110 customers by 5 p.m. (in only 5 locations).

Rowan County Weather reported rainfall accumulation of only .84 inches by 4 p.m. Saturday, but again, the more torrential rains were said to be coming.

Downed trees had been reported Saturday morning on Mooresville Road near Forest Glen and also Roger Drive. Trees also came down Friday night on Pine Ridge Road in China Grove, Old Beatty Ford Road near Poplar Post Lane in Rockwell and Tanglewood Drive in Kannapolis.

Downed power lines or other electrical concerns were called in from West Main Street in Rockwell, North Long streets in Salisbury and East Spencer, Stokes Ferry Road in Salisbury, I-85 near Long Ferry Road and N.C. 801 near Graham Road in Mount Ulla.

Reports came in at 11:42 a.m. Saturday of a tree down on North Main Street near the Salisbury/Spencer line and a power line down on Shuping Mill Road near Shive Road.

Liberty Fire Department quickly cleared a tree that had fallen across Bringle Ferry Road Saturday afternoon near St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. A tree also went down in Rockwell close to 4 p.m.

The Rowan Emergency Operations Center continues to update its damage assessment map at www.readyrowan.org.

Moss, a part-time Tilley’s employee and the coordinator for the Bikers Blues & BBQ, said 29 teams or individuals from North Carolina and several other states ended up competing. In good weather, the big festival usually draws 60-plus.

The barbecue cookoff needed 25 teams to be a sanctioned event.

Patrick, the competitor from Frederick, acknowledged that her chances for doing well were better with fewer teams showing up.

Rowan County has been a temporary home to plenty of evacuees from the coast. (See the accompanying story.) One of them, Debra Buckheit, evacuated from Jacksonville at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

The Marine, who now works at Lowe’s, has been staying with her dad, Paul Mehmed, and the pair spent Saturday afternoon having a late lunch at Tamarac Marina along High Rock Lake.

Neighbors and friends have sent Buckheit pictures of her flooded street in Jacksonville — Gum Branch Road. She thinks her house is mostly dry, but she fears she’ll return to roof and siding damage from the high winds.

Her neighborhood has lost power since Florence hit, but Buckheit’s biggest concern Saturday was her inability since the morning to get in touch with one of her sons, who is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

“Apparently, they’re getting hammered,” she said, adding she thinks her son probably lost the charge on his phone. “It’s a parent thing. You just worry about your kids till you hear from them.”

Buckheit said there was a mandatory evacuation of Jacksonville. When her Lowe’s store closed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, store officials said it would stay closed until further notice.

“I figured this was a fairly safe place,” Buckheit said of coming to Rowan County.

Mehmed isn’t complaining, though he joked about it.

“I hate when she comes up,” he said. “She puts me to work.”

Back at the Bikers, Blues and BBQ in Salisbury, Vickie Nickal and her daughter, Mellissa, were among the vendors who toughed it out and stayed all day Saturday. Their “Loving Touch Massage” offered massages to competitors and the public alike.

“We committed to it,” Vickie said as the rain fell nearby, “and it’s really not that bad. It’s wind and rain and we get that all the time. It’s a good event.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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