Staff and wire report
A deadly storm system that caused major problems in the Southeast on Wednesday and overnight slipped past Robeson County without causing major damage, but did put some people in the dark while scattering some debris and downing a few trees.
They system also ushered in colder weather that will replace 70-degree temperatures of the last two days and will linger through the weekend.
“The thunderstorms didn’t materialize,” Michael Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this morning. “That’s why we didn’t receive the 60-mph winds we initially thought we would get. The potential was there. It just didn’t come together like we thought it would.”
The county did receive about a half inch of rain.
The storm knocked out power for a total of about 2,500 Progress Energy customers by about midnight.
“Robeson County is in pretty good shape,” Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Progress Energy, said this morning. “We have restored 50,000 customers power across the state and we only have 15 people in Robeson County without power now. The conditions last night enabled us to continue work through the evening and restore power over the nighttime hours. It’s going to be breezy throughout the day so we might still see outages pop up throughout the day, but I think we have moved past the storm at this point.”
According to Lamar Brayboy, a spokesman for city of Lumberton, it received four calls from people without power.
“Tree limbs fell on the power lines,” Brayboy said. “It was very minor damages considering the winds we received.”
There was no information this morning on outages with Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation or the town of Red Springs.
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service placed Robeson County under a wind advisory and most of the state was under a tornado watch.
Ross said the top wind speed in Robeson County was 44 mph.
“That was just before midnight and that’s about what we were expecting as the storm progressed and came together,” Ross said. “The storm didn’t come together like we thought it would.
“Robeson County had a few trees down according to reports,” Ross said. “This caused a few roadways in the county to be blocked. Power lines were also reported down but that was probably because of trees striking them as they fell.”
A photographer for The Robesonian who went out early today looking to take photograghs of damage returned empty-handed.
“What it looks like to me is that we may have a few trees down across the county, but that’s about it,” said
Jimmy Williamson, the director of communications for the Robeson County’s 911 call center. “Other than that, we weathered the storm pretty good. It doesn’t look like it did too much here last night.”
No structural damage was reported to the National Weather Service as of this morning.
“With this storm coming through, it ended Robeson County’s unseasonably warm weather,” Ross said. “It will continue to be windy today with a surge of very cold air coming into the area tomorrow. Winds should be in a 20- and 30-mph range through tomorrow and temperature should remain low.”
The forecast for Friday is a high of 47 degrees with temperatures dropping down to 21 degrees overnight. The highs are forecast for the mid-50s on Saturday and Sunday.
The vast storm front stretching on a slanting north-south arc for hundreds of miles shattered homes and businesses around the Midwest and South with tornadoes. By today, it had spread power outages from the Carolinas to Connecticut, triggered flash floods and forced water rescues in areas outside Washington, D.C.
In the Northeast, utilities reported power outages affecting 74,000 users in Connecticut, nearly 25,000 others in Rhode Island and some 24,000 in upstate New York. Authorities in Rhode Island said gusting winds blew the roof off a building in Central Falls. A wind gust of 63 mph was recorded in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York as temperatures plunged with the cold air mass creeping up behind the front. Forecasters said snowfall was possible from the Great Lakes to the Northeast — some of it lake-effect snow.
Near the nation’s capital, emergency responders in Virginia’s Loudoun County said they conducted water rescues early today after some flash floods. One Virginia motorist was plucked from a van’s rooftop after veering into a water-filled ravine, WTOP radio reported. Water rescues also were reported in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md.
Some of the most fierce damage occurred in Adairsville, Ga., a town some 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. WSB-TV in Atlanta aired footage of an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville. Winds flattened homes and wiped out parts of a big manufacturing plant. Insulation dangled from trees and power poles. A bank lost a chunk of its roof.
Anthony Raines, 51, was killed when a tree crashed down on his mobile home, crushing him on his bed, Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton said. Nine other people were hospitalized for minor injuries, authorities said.
The other death reported from the storms occurred in Tennessee, where an uprooted tree fell in a storage shed where a man had taken shelter.
Near Adairsville, the storms easily flipped trucks on Interstate 75 onto their roofs, forcing the route to close for a time. Big rig trucks also were overturned by the winds.
“The sky was swirling,” said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza.
A shelter was set up at a recreation center as temperatures plummeted to the 30s and 40s overnight and people had no heat or power. Georgia Power said some 9,600 customers were still without power this morning, down from about 14,000 a day earlier.
Around the Southeast, meanwhile, authorities were investigating several reports of twisters.
In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak winds of 115 mph touched down in Mount Juliet. No serious injuries were reported even though the path of damage was about 150 yards wide. At least six other tornadoes were reported statewide. At a shopping center in Mount Juliet, large sheets of metal littered the parking lot and light poles were knocked down. One wall of a Dollar General store collapsed, and the roof was torn off.
Deaths from the latest storm ended the nation’s longest break between tornado fatalities since detailed records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The last one was June 24 in Florida. That was 220 days ago as of Tuesday.
The last day with multiple fatalities was June 4, when three people were killed in Missouri.
Associated Press writers Kristin M. Hall in Mount Juliet, Tenn., and Phillip Lucas in Atlanta contributed to this report, as did Thomas Brennan, a staff writer for The Robesonian.