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June 24, 2013

Morrow Mountain State Park closes for several weeks following violent storm

Monday, June 24, 2013 — Morrow Mountain State Park is closed until further notice as a result of the severe storm June 13 which downed trees and damaged facilities.

On the night of the storm, Park Superintendent Greg Schneider and his staff had received hourly briefings on the weather situation.

“We alerted the campground about one-and-a-half hours before the event that there were 60 miles per hour winds expected and that the bathhouse was the most appropriate building to gather in,” Schneider said, adding that many of the campers heeded the warning.

After the storm passed, the damage to the campgrounds became apparent.

“On the night of the storm there were 14 trailers in Loop C. Only one sustained damage and four private vehicles were crushed under trees. We also had trees on the cabins,” Schneider said.

One cabin in particular sustained heavy damage to the foundation and roof. With trees falling so close to inhabited structures, it was fortunate that no one sustained injuries.

“The damage was bad everywhere we had people. The first line of business was to cut everybody out and make sure they were safe. We were blessed nobody got hurt,” Schneider said.

Several other structures in the park were also impacted by the storm. The park lodge and museum were both struck by toppled trees which crashed through their roofs. Fortunately, damage to the exhibits inside the museum were kept at a minimum, with only 10 percent of the exhibits impacted, Schneider said.

Downed trees can be seen in all areas of the park, particularly at the top of the mountain. The forest, he said, is currently in transition, with many of the older trees being replaced.

“A lot of the downed trees were a part of that transition,” Schneinder said.

Since the storm, park staff members have been trying to remove trees and other debris from around the park. Over the coming weeks, they will have assistance from crews from other parks throughout the state as they work to make the park safe for visitors.

“The problem is not so much the trees on the ground. There are a lot of trees hung up in other trees and limbs that are hanging. We will have to get the hangers identified and removed,” Schneider said.

Trees which have fallen near the road will also have to be carefully removed to prevent further damage.

“If we don’t cut them right they will roll onto the road,” Schneider said.

Other work to the park, before visitors are allowed back in, includes fixing water lines and cleaning up debris along 30 miles of trails.

Until the park is deemed safe for visitors, it will be closed until further notice.

“We are working really hard to get the facility back open," Schneider said, adding that he is pushing for a July 14 opening.

“This isn’t my first rodeo. I know it is going to be a long, slow struggle to get everything cleaned up. We just want folks to realize that we’re not just closed to keep the gate closed.”

Stanly County Commissioner Peter Ascuitto joined several members of the Friends of Morrow Mountain on a tour of the park. He was shocked at the damage he observed around him.

“We’re very fortunate that with all the damage, physical injury was kept to a minimum,” Ascuitto said.

“Property can be replaced, but people can’t.”

The Friends of Morrow Mountain will have a trail workday at 8 a.m. June 29. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to contact the park office at (704) 982-4402 to sign up. Volunteers are asked to wear sturdy shoes, long pants and bug spray.

Erica Benjamin is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.

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