04/17/11 — Residents watched clouds swirl, hail, but no real damage in county

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Residents watched clouds swirl, hail, but no real damage in county

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 17, 2011 1:50 AM

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These storm clouds, which were forming into mini-funnels, were in southern Wayne County Saturday. Fortunately no major damage was reported in Wayne County.

Local officials used words like "lucky" and "blessed" Saturday night after a line of storms moved through North Carolina causing a trail of damage, but largely leaving Wayne County untouched.

"I've got some reports of tornados, but nothing confirmed yet," county emergency services director Joe Gurley said. "I think we just need to take this as that we were blessed and spared."

Mount Olive Fire Chief Steve Martin agreed, but he knows those unconfirmed reports of tornados are true. He and fellow firefighter Jonathan Miller saw one pass right over their heads near the U.S. 117 Bypass overpass at N.C. 55. -- near where the News-Argus captured a video of one forming, which can be seen at www.NewsArgus.com.

"I had never seen anything  like it," Martin said. "It was traveling north towards  Goldsboro, but it never touched down. It was the first time I had ever seen something  like that.

None of those storms, however, caused much damage beyond a blown over storage building in the Patetown Community, a roof blown off a house on Rodell Barrow Road, the last road in Wayne County off N.C. 13 North, and plenty of downed trees.

Gurley said golf-ball sized hail also was reported in northeastern Wayne County, and Progress Energy reported that 775 customers had lost power as of 8 p.m.

However, a spokesman from the electric company said crews were out working to restore power.

"All things considered and for all the counties around us, we came out pretty well," Gurley said.

The National Weather Service said Wayne County had about 2.25 inches of rain and wind gusts in Goldsboro of about 38 miles per hour.

Officials in Calypos and Faison also reported tornado sightings, but no damage.

Meteorologist Gale Hartfield also said conditions were ripe for there to have been multiple tornados, but that with all the storms it would likely be several days before that could be officially confirmed.

The stormy afternoon still caused some tense moments for people around the county.

Richard Proctor, chief of the Grantham Fire Depart-ment, said they were prepared for the worst this time and had spent the afternoon glued to the television.

"We had some very sharp lightning, lot of high winds and very heavy rain," he said. "That was as sharp of lightning as we've seen around here in years."

He also said that he had heard there was a funnel cloud in the area, but that he didn't see it himself.

"We were monitoring the storm," he said. "You keep your eyes and ears open. You're a little bit nervous, and every time you look at the radar you sort of hold your breath and say well we missed another one.

"I think we dodged a major bullet."