Storm's scars still fresh

'The wind was blowing the trees sideways'
Jul. 16, 2013 @ 08:05 AM

Roads leading into Collettsville were open to traffic Monday morning, but damage from Friday's devastating winds, rain and hail lay strewn about the area.

Fallen trees and heavy limbs were out of the roads, but the sawed up sections lined the shoulders, waiting to be hauled away. The sun was shining, but the Johns River still churned madly, the morning mist eerily rising above it. A road crew on a stretch of N.C. 90 directed traffic as rock was being placed to shore up a portion of the shoulder of the road that had been washed out.

Waiting in the line of traffic was Jackie Philyaw. She was at home Friday night when the storm hit. The storm washed out a driveway leading to her house just past where Old Johns River Road meets Collettsville Road.

"It was bad," she said. "You couldn't see anything. The wind was blowing the trees sideways. The creek started rising, and it was hailing pretty hard. Then the power went out."

Philyaw was keeping her daughter, son-in-law and two kids at the time, all wondering when the terrifying storm would finally pass. Philyaw called neighbor Wanda Baldwin, who was at her job in Lenoir, and told her to stay put rather than try to get home.

Caldwell County declared a state of emergency for the Collettsville area after the late Friday storm, which dropped more than 5 inches of rain in an hour, causing a number of mudslides. The storm also included a microburst, a severe downdraft that can be as powerful as a tornado.

Houses, roads and trees weren't the only casualties of the storm. The large hailstones that battered the tin roof of John Chester's mobile home on N.C. 90 south of Collettsville laid waste to the field of watermelons, squash, green beans and okra he hoped to harvest.

By the the time the hail stopped, "the ground was solid white," Chester, 66, said.

He was still rethinking his produce plan Monday.

"I ain't giving up yet," he said. "I've plowed up the garden and may try to put in some late watermelons and beans."