Above: Workers from Quality Tree Service and MidAtlantic Infrastructure work to remove a fallen tree from Jodie Pearce’s house on Edward Best Road. (Photos by Jay Lamm)
Toppled trees, power outages caused by gusting winds from thunderstorms
by Jay Lamm
LOUISBURG — Last week’s severe weather tore through Franklin County, leaving widespread power outages and damage from pockets of wind that gusted up to 85 miles per hour.
Trees were toppled and split, leaving some homes damaged from Franklinton to Louisburg and from Justice to White Level June 13.
Officials estimated $92,400 in damages to property countywide. No personal injuries were reported.
The peak of the storm was short-lived, but intense. It rolled into the county around 5 p.m. and was gone by 6:15. Several buildings lost roofs, and some out buildings collapsed.
Storm causes house fire
The weather Thursday was also the cause of a house fire in White Level. Lightning hit the ground near Tim Duke’s home, and the current ran up the satellite television dish cable and into the wall, according to Duke.
“The wind came up and broke off a tree in our front yard. Then my daughter smelled smoke,” said Duke, who lives off Fishing Rock Road. “It was scary.”
White Level firefighters quickly found the source of the fire and tore out walls, searching under the house to make sure the fire was out.
“I can’t believe our luck,” said Jodie Pearce, watching as the firefighters secured the home. Pearce is the daughter of the property owner, Margo Duke.
Pearce’s own home on Edward Best Road had been damaged by a tree, just minutes earlier, felled by the high, gusting wind.
“The tree fell through our upstairs bedroom. Not a good night for my family,” she said.
In all, 5,500 in Franklin County were without power Thursday night. All but 1,177 homes were restored by Friday night; the rest had been scheduled to be back on by Sunday, Jeff Lewis, Franklin County emergency services director said.
“The dollar damage was low overall. We were very fortunate,” Lewis said.
New radio system passes tough test
Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones, who patrolled throughout the storm and after, reported 160 emergency calls came in the two hours after the storm. There were twice as many administrative calls, he said.
“When the storm came through, I told my officers to stay put until the storm was over unless they got a life-or death-call,” Jones said. “Once the storm was over, I told my officers to hit the road and start helping people.”
Jones said everyone worked well together.
“The communication between the volunteer fire departments, emergency services and municipalities was right on target. The new radio system worked flawlessly,” he said.
Kelly Harris, chief of the Justice Volunteer Fire Department, echoed Jones’ praise of the county’s new radio system.
“No problems at all. Communication between my guys and other departments went about as well as it could have,” Harris said.
Other areas hit
Louisburg Utilities Director Ray Patterson was not as pleased with his communications with Duke Progress Energy.
“I had to make several calls to Duke Energy or Progress or Duke Progress, whatever they are calling themselves these days, to get any response,” Patterson said.
“My crew and I had Louisburg ready for the power to be restored in 45 minutes from my original call. It took Duke Energy two hours and 20 minutes to get the power back on.”
Patterson said Louisburg mostly had downed trees that damaged some houses and hit electrical lines.
“The 100 block of Edgewood Drive sustained the most damage with fallen trees, one hitting a house,” he said.
Franklinton Mayor Elic Senter reported that a couple of trees fell on Cheatham Street and a power line went down.
Casey Jones, 70, was in his Moulton Road mobile home when it was hit by a tree.
He was rescued from the crushed trailer by his son-in-law, Jerry Abbott, escaping with scrapes and bruises.
“He has lost everything,” said Brenda Fuller, Jones’ sister-in law.
John Gupton, with Franklin Livestock Co. off Edward Best Road, said he saw the storm coming, but by the time he got to shelter, part of it was blown away. It landed in a cattle holding pen some 200 yards away.
“The sky was clear, then all of a sudden it got dark and the wind got violent. It was here, then it was gone,” Gupton said. “Luckily, no one was injured.”
Calvin Williams, owner of Quality Tree Service of Louisburg, said his phone had been ringing off the hook.
“Most people who call after a storm are dealing with a tragedy, and it feels good to be able to offer a service that helps people get through a trying time in their life,” he said.
Williams and his crew, along with help from Mid-Atlantic Infrastructure, spent most the morning carefully removing the tree from Pearce’s house.