LUMBERTON — For Lumberton resident Saundra Sonie Jones, the effects of Tuesday’s thunderstorms in Robeson County stuck around well after the clouds, lightning and heavy rain had moved on.
“When I got home from work it was just beginning to start sprinkling,” said Jones. “It didn’t appear to be anything but rain, that’s all … but all of the sudden the wind started blowing really hard. And I thought, you know this is going to blow over in a minute, there’s nothing to it.”
But there was more to the storm than she thought. Wind gusts as strong as 46 mph were reported at the Lumberton Municipal Airport. As many as 4 inches of rain fell in the northwest part of the county Tuesday night, with about an inch falling in Lumberton. Trees limbs were scattered on roads throughout the county, downing some power lines and leaving more than 6,000 Robeson utility customers in the dark at the height of the storm.
Jones was one of those customers, and her power had still not been restored by Wednesday afternoon. With the lights out in her Tower Road home late Tuesday night, Jones decided to step onto her front porch to monitor the storm. But as she opened her front door, she was met face to face with a large double oak tree that had fallen just inches away from her porch.
“Just as I opened my front storm door, I heard this whooshing sound, and that was these two trees,” Jones said. “I watched them and they just as easily as you could imagine just laid right there. As I saw them coming down I was terrified, but they just laid right there. And that was really scary, I didn’t know what to do.”
The uprooted tree left a gaping hole in her yard, and the 14-foot-tall roots towered over her roof. Jones, who has lived in the house since 1972, said that the tree has always been there. The tree landed on the hood of her car.
By the end of Tuesday night, four other trees had fallen on Jones’ property, including one that landed on her roof, and a sixth tree that is leaning against the power lines and will need to be cut down.
“My neighbors told me that my house got struck worse than any other houses,” Jones said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jones was sitting outside of her home with her son surveying the damage. She said that power could not be restored to her house until the fallen trees could be removed.
A fallen tree also presented an obstacle in front of Ronald Chance’s home on 15th Street, near Cedar Street. A large pecan tree had fallen across the road, taking down a power line with it.
Chance said a stopped-up drain had caused his street to flood temporarily overnight. He lost power for about an hour and a half.
“The rain and wind got pretty bad” he said, sitting on his porch.
The National Weather Service website showed reports of wind damage at Phillips Mobile Home Park near T&P Road in Lumberton and a large tree down on Eastwood Terrace. N.C. 72 near Old Whiteville Road was closed in both directions for much of Tuesday and has reopened. One resident of Towne Village Apartments on Elm Street had a tree crash through her ceiling.
By Wednesday afternoon, just two Duke Energy customers were without power, one of which was attributed to fallen trees or limbs. By this morning, all customers with Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation and the city of Lumberton had power again.
First Sgt. Jeremy Brewington, with the state Highway Patrol, said he had not been made aware of any accidents related to the storm, but that troopers were busy with calls for service on Tuesday.
“Calls for service would be trees down, trees on the road,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Everything is cleared up at this time.”
Forecasts through the weekend are calling for mostly sunny skies and temperatures topping out in the mid- to high-90s.
Jack Frederick is an intern for The Robesonian. Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.