Storm violent and quick, but few lasting effects

May. 22, 2013 @ 07:03 PM

Penny Jones was at her apartment on Spainhour Street on Wednesday afternoon when her son Bergen, 15, came running to find her.

“He said ‘Mama, come here,’ and he ran to his bedroom window and said, ‘Mama, look here,’” Jones said. “And I saw the tree in the window.”

As in, right up to the window, where no tree had been a few minutes earlier.

Around the same time, Cheryl Miller was at her house at 1302 Murray Place in Lenoir taking care of her daughter, who had strep throat. As they huddled inside against the noise of the heavy rain and cracks of lightning, they heard the loud crack of a tree trunk outside – then the screech and scurrying of their two cats.

“It scared both of us,” Miller said. “Our hearts jumped up in our throats and we really just started screaming and crying.”

Jones and Miller had experienced firsthand the effects of a storm that passed through the middle of Caldwell County with plenty of sound and fury but, ultimately, didn’t do much permanent harm.

Wind, rain and dime-sized hail hit parts of the county, with the worst from about 2 to 4 p.m. Trees fell across roads and a few power lines in the Lenoir, Patterson and Yadkin Valley areas, but no injuries had been reported as of Wednesday evening.

Structural damage was limited as well. Miller’s truck – which had survived a tree falling on it in 2009 – had no broken glass.

Some of the worst damage was at Spainhour Apartments, where Jones lives, Fire Chief Ken Briscoe said. There, a tree fell on the roof.

Jones was worried two of her neighbors – a man and toddler who are often home during the day – might be hurt. But when emergency responders entered, after receiving a key from housing staff, they found no one inside.

A few county residents lost power because of the storm. The number of Blue Ridge Electric and Duke Power customers without power peaked at fewer than 700 around 3 p.m.

At that time, Blue Ridge had a total of 345 customers without power throughout its service area, 338 of them in Caldwell County. Duke Power had 504 outages in 27 North and South Carolina counties, with 353 in Caldwell.

But a large chunk of Blue Ridge’s outages didn’t come from the storm at all.

An area along N.C. 268 near Camp Carolwood lost power after a bird got into some electrical equipment. “Looks like 254 (outages) were due to that bird,” said Renee Whitener, director of public relations for Blue Ridge Electric.

About 70 Blue Ridge Electric customers lost power in the Brown Mountain Beach area, where several power lines knocked down, but linemen expected to have power restored before nightfall.

As the storm rolled through, emergency responders dealt with a burst of activity. In Lenoir, the fire department responded to 14 calls in the span of about an hour, Briscoe said.

“For about an hour and 15 minutes there, everybody was pretty busy,” he said.

The people who made those calls – most of them reporting downed trees – saw the storm’s worst.

Others managed to hunker down and escape any damage.

“Rocking our house but the baby is still sound asleep,” a reader wrote about the storm on the News-Topic’s Facebook wall around 3 p.m. “Go figure.”