Weather service investigating wind damage

Sunday storm hit Oak Hill area hard
Jun. 11, 2013 @ 08:12 AM

Kenneth Caudill looked out the front door of his house Sunday afternoon and thought he saw a tornado.

Whether it was a tornado is under investigation, but Caudill, 75, was not imagining things, as evidenced by the damage visible Monday. Perhaps 20 yards away, in front of the Oak Hill School, trees lay twisted in a heap of limbs and branches.

“It sounded like a train,” Caudill said. “It looked like the cloud was touching the ground. Then, a branch hit a power line. I saw a ball of fire.”

He headed inside the safety of his house with his wife, Shirley, and daughter, Cynthia.

The Little River Fire Department reported large trees fell on and damaged several buildings in the area of Oak Hill Elementary School. A fallen tree caused approximately $5,000 in damages to the roof and the masonry at the school, and a tree caused an estimated $10,000 in damages to a utility building on Oak Hill Park Circle.

Another tree caused a total of about $30,000 damage to both floors of a two-story house on Oak Hill School Road. A nearby home also suffered gutter damage.

Minor damage were also reported at the Oak Hill Ruritan Club and in Oak Hill Park.

Lauren Visin of the National Weather Service office in Greenville, S.C., said wind damage in the Oak Hill community was reported by Caldwell County Emergency Management Services, but whether it was caused by a tornado or other kinds of highly focused strong winds has not been determined.

“It could have been straight-line wind damage, or a strong downburst, but we can’t rule out tornadic activity, nor can we confirm it,” Visin said.

Almost 4½ inches of rain fell in central Caldwell County between Saturday and mid-afternoon Monday. From June 1 to Monday, a total of 6.81 inches of rain had fallen in the area, more than in any month so far in 2013.

Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. reported 1,360 members affected by damaging storms Sunday in Caldwell County. Flooding and strong winds were they factors in these outages. Outages began around 9 a.m. for N.C. 90 in the Collettsville area, and the Oak Hill community with outages at 4 p.m.

Reports of flooding also were reported in vulnerable areas, such as along Old Johns River Road. Assistant Chief Alan Walsh of Collettsville Fire and Rescue said that three of the five bridges spanning Old Johns River were impassable Monday morning. By midday, the water had receded enough to allow traffic to cross.

Stormy weather was predicted through Monday evening; the weather service had issued a tornado watch for Caldwell and surrounding counties until 10 p.m. Elevated river and stream levels set the stage for a greater potential for flash flooding, and additional predicted thunderstorms producing heavy downpours also were predicted.