Neighbors clean up after harrowing storm: 'It was like a whirlwind'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — People across the Carolinas woke up to the sound of chainsaws Monday morning as crews worked to clear dozens of trees that were toppled after a massive storm system pushed through the Charlotte area Sunday night, bringing ominous skies, hail the size of golf balls, and winds as strong as 70 mph.

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Watauga County Schools will operate on a two-hour delay through Tuesday, while Avery County Schools will be on a three-hour delay until Wednesday.


Norwood Elementary School in Stanly County will be operating on a normal schedule.

Though the storms had cleared out, some neighborhoods saw a few sprinkles before sunrise Monday morning. Any showers that developed though did not bring much rain.

MONDAY: Overnight, temperatures will be even colder, dropping into the mid-30s in Charlotte, though the record low of 30 degrees should stay safe.

TUESDAY: There will be plenty of sunshine on Tuesday, and highs will rebound into the low 70s. Even warmer weather is in store for Wednesday, with highs in the low 80s.


[IMAGES: Storm photos]

Storms rip through area; trees toppled, homes and buildings damaged

Danny Phillips said he had just arrived home when the powerful storm came rolling through his neighborhood near Beatties Ford Road in Huntersville.

"It was raining so hard you couldn't see, and I could see those trees right yonder, and it looked like they was touching the ground,” Phillips said.

The storm was so loud that his family didn’t even hear their large barn collapse.

Phillips said animals, including a pregnant cow, escaped the barn just before it crashed down.

"I put my shoes on and come out and I didn't know all this was tore up,” Phillips said.

The cow gave birth a short time later to a healthy calf, and Phillips said both animals are doing well.

“Thank the good Lord, it could have been a tragedy,” Phillips said.

Around the corner, there was more destruction.

A large tree fell in the center of Beatties Ford Road near Highway 73, and power lines were scattered across the street. Kris Manley, a neighbor, said it seemed like a tornado ripped through.

"The classic sound of a train coming,” Manley said. “It jumped our house, hit both neighbors, one on either side, took out a lot of trees there."

Bill Suthard with the Huntersville Fire Department wasn’t so sure that a tornado touched down.

"It looks like straight-line winds. I'm not an expert,” Suthard said. “We will leave it up to the experts to take a look in a few days and let us know."

The fire department in Huntersville said they responded to 47 calls Sunday, more than double the norm, and that the bulk of the calls came between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

In Belmont, a couple told Channel 9 they were standing in the doorway of their home on Forest Lane when a tree fell above their heads and split the roof, crushing the door frame. The woman went to the hospital with a bump on her head.

Residents said they heard the weather siren sounding from the nearest fire department, and the storm hit moments later.

"It come down like golf-ball sized hail. It was like a roaring noise almost,” neighbor Tim Parra said.

The American Red Cross is helping the family, who spent the night in a hotel. Many of their neighbors lost power.

Down the street, another tree fell, landing between two houses. That tree was snapped high on the trunk and crashed down on a truck.


In a neighborhood in the Lake Wylie area, officials told some homeowners it was not safe to stay there because of the damage the storm caused.

Siding was ripped off a home and bunched up in piles, and a neighbor said the inside wall started caving in.

Down the street, Channel 9 saw a home with its roof wrapped in plastic. On another house, the siding was barely holding on.

Neighbors in Lake Wylie's Timberlake community believe a tornado struck their neighborhood.

“The first sign was someone said a tornado had touched down,” neighbor Jeremy Morris said. “It must have been in a swirl because my backyard stuff ended up in the front yard.”

Neighbors said the worst winds hit just after 3 p.m. and were wrapped in rain.

“This has been two or three hours later. The ceiling started falling in, the floors are ruined,” neighbor Nancy Dove said. “The next-door neighbors had no damage.”

Neighbors went door-to-door, providing food for those whose homes were damaged by the storm.

“I've never, never lived in a community this awesome before,” Morris said.

While Dove’s home suffered major damage, she said she is lucky to be talking about it.

“We're blessed that we're alive,” she said.

(Lake Wylie)

In Iredell County, downed trees were a big problem. The storm left a trail of damage and misery that people in Mooresville won’t forget.

Skylar Mosley, 13, huddled in a home along with the rest of her family just before the storm tore the roof off the house.

"Scariest thing that's ever happened to me so far in my life,” Mosley said.

Residents on Goodwin Circle described the vicious wind gusts as a whirlwind.

"Yeah, I was standing in the doorway,” Sean Siemens said. “Here come piece of roof this way, piece a roof that way, and it was like a whirlwind."

The roof that used to cover the family’s kitchen flew off into their front yard. The family was inside when the storm rolled through.

“It hit the roof of our house and then it blowed everything across through yonder and jumped over top of my granddaughter's car and got her mailbox across the street,” neighbor Fred Reams said. “It tore it down then just went away.”

Fifteen minutes away, in Fox Hollow, residents shared similar stories, although the damage wasn't as bad.

Shannon Faulkner said she ran to the basement with her 1-year-old daughter.

"You could hear the tree snap when I first came back. I could see everything blowing,” Faulkner said.

The storm was a double whammy for a Mooresville bar, which was damaged by a suspected drunk driver on Thursday.

Sunday’s weather caused part of the ceiling and interior walls of Hot Shotz bar to collapse.

When Channel 9 looked through the front doors of the neighboring Chinese restaurant, the wall was leaning. Both businesses were closed and it was not clear how long it would take to make repairs.

Officials in Iredell County said there weren't any serious injuries.

"It just sounded like a roar, all at one time,” Reams said. “That's the first time I've ever been around a storm like that and I don't want to be around another one."

The National Weather Service was sent to Iredell County on Monday to determine if a tornado did, in fact, touch down.

(Iredell County)

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, a large 20-foot tree crashed through a home on Erskine Drive, one of several to fall across the Queen City.

The woman who lives there said the tree smashed through her bedroom roof and she was worried the whole roof could cave in from the pressure.

The people who live in the home were at church when the tree fell.

(East Charlotte)

(East Charlotte)

Downed trees and power lines

The strong storm caused a tree to pull down power lines along Interstate 77, backing up traffic for miles near Langtree Road in Mooresville. Crews were able to clear the highway by 7 p.m. Sunday.

In Huntersville, a downed tree shut down Old Statesville Road at Gilead Road, and took down some power lines. Crews were still busy clearing the road before dawn Monday.

Trees and power lines were also reported down in Morganton along Lions Hill Street.

In Rowan County, there was a report that a tree landed on a house along Cool Springs Road north of Woodleaf.

There were no reports of injuries.

The Huntersville Fire Department reported a few trees down in the area of Beatties Ford Road and Brown Mill Road. Firefighters and city workers cut up the downed trees and got them out of the road.

There were no injuries.


A spokesman for Mecklenburg Stormwater Services said creeks across the county were free from blockages, and no major flooding was reported.

Typically, local creeks can handle about 1 to 2 inches of rain in an hour, and anything more can cause flooding.

During the storm, officials were monitoring the county's flood information notification system. Devices located around creeks can give officials an early flood warning.

Heavy rain did cause some drains to flood near Stewart Creek on West Morehead Street in Charlotte.

Power outages

About 75,000 homes and businesses were without power late Sunday afternoon, but that number was down to 5,500 early Monday morning in Mecklenburg County.

Duke Energy said about 43,000 customers lacked power in North Carolina and another 9,000 in South Carolina.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Company reported 23,000 customers without power in South Carolina.

Airport travel

Officiala at Charlotte Douglas International Airport said on Twitter Sunday that severe weather caused a ground stop and forced air traffic controllers to leave their tower. The ground stop was later lifted.