Lifeguard hit by lightning, tornado confirmed near Lake Norman

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The latest round of storms to race through Rowan County late Monday afternoon left a young lifeguard in Landis in the hospital following a lightning strike and thousands without power well into the day Tuesday.

In addition, the National Weather Service office in Greenville-Spartanburg has confirmed an EF-0 tornado with peak winds of 85 mph uprooted trees and damaged the outside of buildings near Lake Norman in Mooresville.

Calls reporting a person had been hit by lightning came in after 5 p.m. Monday as a storm that was declared capable of spawning a tornado began to move into the outer edge of the county in Kannapolis. Emergency responders were sent to the call as one of the first to come in with the weather, which brought heavy winds that, in turn, took down trees and power lines. The young woman is reportedly hospitalized but fortunately, officials said her injuries were not life threatening.

The storm was predicted as early as Sunday, and by Monday morning, weather forecasters were already warning that the storm would bring straight-line winds, possibly up to 60-80 mph in gusts, some potential hail, cloud-to-ground lightning and a low risk of tornadoes.

By the end of the night, the heavy winds brought the number of power outages was more than 16,000, and into the day Tuesday, there were still almost 7,000 without power as of 4 p.m.

With schools starting Wednesday, the hope was to have full restoration, but a call to Duke Energy was not returned as of press time.

The storm brought a tornado warning for Rowan County until about 5:30 p.m. after the National Weather Service reported rotation had been spotted on radar. There continues to be speculation that in addition to Mooresville, a tornado may have touched down in China Grove, but NWS has not confirmed that. The damage, however, is still massive, with trees coming down on houses and blocking roadways. There were reports as well of live wires down on not just houses and roadways, but on cars and even a tractor trailer truck at one point.

In the last storm that came through several weeks ago, straight line winds brought down numerous trees in Salisbury, but Monday’s storm took a harder swipe at the China Grove and Spencer/East Spencer area.

At the start of the storm, many families were engaged in open houses at a number of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, and staff had visitors shelter in place in the buildings until the storm passed.

“I was so relieved that they didn’t send us out into it,” said Anna Green, who was at an open house with her granddaughter. “At first I thought it was just a normal thunderstorm, but then I got alerts on my phone and realized we didn’t want to have to travel in that.”

Spencer had two trees come down between Second and Third Streets within a block of one another, both on the corners of Whitehead Avenue. A huge limb came down in front of the North Main Baptist Church where flash flooding also impeded travel in both northbound lanes. In East Spencer, a tree reportedly came down on a residential trailer leaving a resident temporarily stuck inside. The Red Cross was called upon to assist several residents throughout the county who were temporarily displaced due to storm damage.

The emergency traffic on the scanner was non-stop until after 7 p.m. when things finally began to slow down somewhat. Fortunately, other than the lifeguard, there were no reports of serious injuries.

Leaders from towns throughout the county are reminding drivers that if they reach an intersection with a light signal that is not working, they are required to treat it as a four-way or three-way stop until power is restored.

By the end of the day Tuesday, power was coming back bit by bit, and officials said there were no plans to delay schools Wednesday morning as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.