Storm blows through Central Carolina

Trees, power lines fall during Saturday storm
Jan. 11, 2014 @ 06:43 PM

Trees fell on houses, power lines blocked roadways and traffic lights were out after short-lived, but extreme, bursts of wind and rain blew through the Central Carolina area Saturday.

Bobbie Settle, who lives on Brinn Drive off of Spring Lane, said she was sitting down to lunch when her neighbor's tree came crashing onto her property.

"We were eating, and 'bang,'" she said. "Fortunately, it did not hit the house."

The tree did damage a storage building in her yard and block the driveway, she said, but nobody was hurt.

Shane Seagroves, emergency management director for Lee County, said late Saturday afternoon that he hadn't heard reports of a single injury even despite lots of property damage.

"It's widespread damage across the county, but it seems like the farther north you go, the worse it got," he said.

Seagroves said he knew of about a half dozen houses damaged by falling trees, but that he didn't think any families would be displaced. In the Northview area of Lee County, along Hawkins Avenue just north of U.S. 1, the yards of several homes had trees down — including at least two with multiple downed trees. Nearly every power line on the side of the road was also knocked over, leading traffic to back up in the early afternoon as volunteer firefighters tried to maintain order and safety.

Clarence Battle, a truck driver with Modern Transportation Services, had to stop in the northbound right lane of Hawkins Avenue and get out of his vehicle after a falling line got tangled with the top of his truck.

He said he decided to play it safe even though he would have rather driven through the weather — even while most passenger cars were stopping and pulling to the side of the road to avoid the strong gusts of wind, which meteorologists said could been as fast as 58 miles per hour.

"Those little cars were blowing back and forth," Battle said. "Me, I got 80,000 pounds, so I wasn't in trouble, but I could still feel it. Wind's like karma, man. You don't mess with wind."

Nearby, Nancy Wenger Riddle was outside surveying the damage. Her family, which own Mrs. Wenger's Restaurant, also has a greenhouse on Hawkins Avenue. The sign for that greenhouse was shattered on the ground Saturday, having been blown over and impaled on a post. Up the road, the sign for Floretta Imports was still standing — but was draped in downed power lines.

Seagroves said just before 4 p.m. that there were about 3,600 customers without power in Lee County. A map from Duke Energy showed Harnett County avoided too many power outages, but that Moore, Lee and Chatham counties were hit fairly hard. The four counties spent most of Saturday under a tornado watch, and for a short time Chatham County's forecast progressed to a tornado warning.

Seagroves added that he thinks this storm — which only lasted a few minutes in Sanford — will also be the last of its kind for at least a little while.

"I haven't gotten any notifications of anything else coming this way," he said.