Storms blow through, pour rain on Mount Olive
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 14, 2011 1:50 AM
Rob McDuffie, left, Duplin director of emergency services, and Reid Southerland, Duplin fire marshal, look at the damage done to Reggie Carter's old welding shop Friday in the Rones Chapel community.
Bruce Anderson points at the trunk of a 300-year-old tree that was blown down Friday at the home of Cliff Phillips on N.C. 403 West. People caught in Friday's sudden storm said it reminded them of a hurricane.
A man looks at damage done at the Friendly Mart on North Breazeale Avenue when high winds knocked over the canopy.
MOUNT OLIVE -- A quick-moving and violent storm swept across the town about 1 p.m. Friday dumping more than 2 inches of rain in less than 10 minutes while powerful winds took down trees and power lines, leaving portions of the town in the dark until almost 10 p.m.
The street flooding and debris strewn around town were reminiscent of the aftermath of a hurricane, town officials said.
No injuries were reported.
The winds toppled the canopy over the gas pumps at the Friendly Mart, and destroyed signs at Pizza Village and Mt. Olive Centre, all on North Breazeale Avenue.
According to reports, a car was parked under the canopy when it was blown over.
Casey and Lloyd Sutton were at the Andy's restaurant at the shopping center when the storm struck.
"We were eating when we started noticing the clouds and the trees," Mrs. Sutton said. "That wind came up and the rain, it looked like the rain was whipping around the posts. Some went and held the doors and some had to mop.
"It got so bad and you could hear that roof like it was being suctioned, moving up and down. A bunch of us went to that hallway outside the bathrooms. I was absolutely trembling. I think I was as scared as I have ever been."
The storm seemed to last forever, but it was probably 10 minutes from start to finish, she said.
"I thought it would never end," Mrs. Sutton said. "It would ease off then whip back up. In a little while it was raining like a regular rain and it brightened up.
"But the noise, the noise. It wasn't like the freight train noise (associated with tornadoes). It was just a-whipping the rain and the roof it sounded like it was lifting. I was waiting for it to come off."
At her mother's home on North Center Street a large pecan tree broke into and fell across a small wall separating the yard from a neighbor's yard.
In the backyard a limb was broken off a crape myrtle tree.
"That has been there since mother was a child and she is 103," she said. "That is why we don't trim it, we just let it stay."
The storm that struck about 1 p.m. lasted less than 15 minutes, said Police Chief Brian Rhodes.
"When it blew up, it blew up quick," he said. "We saw it coming from back towards the Grantham area. Then we ended up having a call and ended up going back to the call and by the time we got to the call it was already here."
Rhodes estimated gusts reached 50 to 60 miles per hour -- estimates supported by the Raleigh office of the National Weather Service.
"My rain gauge here says 2.18 inches but the problem is it fell in about 10 minutes," said Town Manager Charles Brown.
"Trees down, signs down, Hurricanes (youth football) field had some damage done to it," Rhodes said. "Many trees are down and water standing, but the water was running off really good.
"It is like I told one of the town workers a while ago, six years ago if he had had that much water dumped on us at one time we would have been in trouble. We were lucky, really lucky."
There was flooding on several streets including East College, James, Chestnut, Church and Breazeale.
The one place in town that did not flood was the Crest Drive area that normally floods during heavy rains.
South and north of the town saw little evidence of the storm, Brown said.
"What happened, the wind came and blew down all of the limbs and debris off the trees and blocked the storm drains and the water didn't have anywhere to go," Brown said.
Henderson, Martin, Main, Church and Southerland were among the streets that were temporarily blocked by trees. Across town numerous trees and limbs were down.
A pine tree fell across a pickup truck parked at a home on Smith Chapel Road.
There was some hail, which is what chopped the trees up, Brown said.
"We are fortunate nobody was hurt," he said. "Our big concern now is that people will get out and there are still live power lines down in the street, there are water puddles in the street. I saw parents with their small children out wading in the water puddles.
"When I explained to them that is really a bad idea with the power lines down, they sort of looked at me like I had lost my mind and went right on wading."
Traffic was heavy on many town streets as sightseers rode around looking at the damage. A neighbor of the man whose truck was destroyed by the fallen tree said that if the man had charged everybody who stopped to take a picture of the damage, he could probably buy a new vehicle.
Shortly after the storm ended, town work crews were clearing the streets of trees and branches and people were out cleaning up downed branches and debris scattered by the storm. All total, about 680 Progress Energy customers and about 1,000 Tri-County Electric customers in the Mount Olive area lost power.
Other areas affected by the storm Friday included Snow Hill where nearly 100 people were without power, and on Saturday, as another line of storms came through, about 200 people in the Belfast community lost power, though Progress Energy officials expected it to be restored later in the evening.
Over the course of the two days worth of storms, Mount Olive received approximately 3.5 to 4 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, while Goldsboro saw only about 0.8 inches.