Widespread damage in Stanly due to storms, tornado

Published 2:10 pm Friday, February 7, 2020

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Several areas throughout Stanly County were affected by heavy storms and a tornado Thursday afternoon. Numerous houses were damaged with fallen trees and several roads were still closed Friday afternoon.

The county had anywhere from two to three inches of rain on Thursday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist  James Morrow out of Raleigh. Other areas, including Charlotte, Asheboro and Rockingham, received three to four inches of rain, according to NWS data.

A National Weather Service survey team was dispatched to the county Friday afternoon and ultimately determined that an EF-1 tornado occurred Thursday just west of Albemarle with winds up to 110 mph.

County Commissioner Matthew Swain signed a State of Emergency Declaration for the county Thursday night for additional resources. One of the main reasons for doing so was to allow a N.C. Forestry Service crew from Richmond County, which was undergoing a training exercise at Camp Barnhardt, to remain in the area to help with storm recovery.

The forestry crew and Millingport Fire Department worked late into the night Thursday to help clear trees and downed power lines along N.C. Highway 73.

“We were extremely lucky that no one was injured as a result of the storm,” Swain said.

Stanly County Fire Marshal Michael Roark said the majority of the storm-related damage in Albemarle was confined to the North-Northeast area, including Salisbury Avenue, Stoker Terrace, Snuggs Street and McKee Street. He said officials were called to Hilltop Street due to a woman being trapped in her home after a tree fell on the roof, but upon arrival, the woman had already gotten out of the house.

Stanly County Emergency Management Director Brian Simpson said as of 10:30 a.m. Friday, there were around 2,000 people without power; at the height of the storm Thursday afternoon, he said 5,000 people were without power. As of noon Friday, the city of Albemarle posted that around 700 power outages remained.

Simpson said as of 5 a.m. Friday, there were 27 roads closed due to downed trees or flood waters; at the height of the storm Thursday afternoon, he said 46 roads were closed.

NCDOT official Jeff Littlefied said that only six secondary roads were closed as of 3:15 p.m. — Hill Ford Road, Miller Road, Bridgeport Road, Mount Zion Church Road, Riverview Road and Lingerfelt Road.

Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco said he doesn’t know of any injuries, just a lot of property damage. He has heard of several reports across the county of trees falling on houses.

Millingport was hit particularly hard. Tons of downed trees and power lines are along N.C. Highway 73.

Charles Butler, 88, who lives in the Janey House in Millingport (which is more than 100 years old), said around 11 or 12 trees were uprooted and several collapsed onto his house due to the storm.

“It was just kind of terrifying, but you were sort of breathless watching it,” he said. “The wind was horrible, it was ferocious wind, I’ve never seen winds like that.”

Butler said the storm, which he watched from one of his windows, lasted no more than ten minutes, “and then it got quiet.” He thinks the storm was either a microburst or a tornado.

Butler is now staying with a friend at Lake Tillery. He hopes to be able to go back to his house, as long it has been repaired and inspected for mold. He’s lived in the house for roughly 13 years.

Much of Sharon Mason’s childhood home in Millingport was damaged when a tree uprooted and collapsed on the house. She posted pictures of the damage on Facebook.

“Wow…so many wonderful childhood memories were made at this house,” she posted on Facebook. “GONE in less than ten seconds.”

A friend of the current tenant in the home hurried into the closet when she heard the thunderous noises of the storm which she thought sounded like a “train,” Mason posted. Luckily she was okay.

Though the storm did damage to the home, “it’s just stuff,” Mason wrote. “You can rebuild a house, not a life.”

A tree crashed into Sharon Mason’s childhood home in Millingport. (Picture provided by Sharon Mason)

The steeple perched atop Friendship Methodist Church along N.C. Highway 73 in Albemarle broke off and splintered into many pieces.

The steeple broke off Friendship Methodist Church in Albemarle due to the storm.

Kiddie Kare on Pennington Road in Albemarle, which lost power, had to call parents Thursday to pick up their kids. Local firefighters were at the scene to help. Parents couldn’t access the parking lot due to downed power lines and trees, so they had to park at the church across the street.

“Some kids were crying, screaming and other kids were calm,” said parent Stashia Robinson. “You couldn’t park in the parking lot. You had to park in the parking lot at the church across the street. There were trees, phone lines down and it was raining, so you didn’t want to step into that.”

When asked to assess the damage in Locust, City Administrator Cesar Correa, said the city was “wet, very wet.” He said a tree took down a power line on Meadow Creek Church Road, but that’s the only reported issue he has heard about.

Badin Town Administrator Jay Almond said his town was luckily not hit as bad as other parts of the county.

Oakboro Police Chief T.J. Smith posted on Facebook Thursday areas of the town that have been flooding, including West 5th Street and North College Street, River Rooster on Main Street, West 5th Street and Claymon Road, Richard Sandy Road off N.C. Highway 138 and East 8th Street off Saint Martin Road. Utility poles are also down on Liberty Hill Church Road.

Mike Thompson, public works director in Norwood, said “We just got some local flooding on some streets, but nothing major.”

Thompson said there have been no reports of downed trees and advises residents to be cautious, particularly near creeks and low-lying areas.

“There’s a lot of rain coming down, but hopefully the creeks will take care of it,” he’s said. “The problem is the ground was already saturated, so that’s what we’re concerned about.”

Hope Miller, administrative assistant for Stanly County Schools, said a handful of schools did not have power Thursday afternoon, and several buildings reportedly had trees or branches down along with standing water.

“We have not been given an ETA on restoring the power to those facilities,” Miller said.

SCS made the decision to cancel school on Friday.

Though Stanly Community College closed Thursday at 3 p.m., it opened at 9 a.m. Friday.

Misenheimer police officer M.E. Flanagan drove around the village and said there was “no damage of consequence. We are fortunate up here in that we haven’t had anything impassable or trees down.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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