Winds whip Kings Mountain

May 27, 2004|EMILY BURTON

KINGS MOUNTAIN - This community is cleaning up today after a funnel cloud ripped through southern Lincoln County Wednesday afternoon, leaving behind a five-mile strip of broken homes, downed power lines and stunned neighbors. It was luck that no one was killed in the storm, said witnesses.

Severe thunderstorms had moved into the area at approximately 3 p.m., causing brutal wind damage across the county. The National Weather Service is still investigating the storm to determine if a tornado had formed.

The residents surrounding the intersection of Highway 501 and North Fishing Creek Road were reported to have suffered the brunt of the storm, but damage stretched from New Salem to U.S. 27 and Robertstown Road.

"This whole block is just messed up," said Eugene Crowe of the Hustonville fire department.

Six structures in the area were damaged or demolished, said county emergency manager, Winford Todd.

"It took the top of a house off, and a barn on the other side of them, it stopped the Southern Railroad "


Parallel to Fishing Creek Road, Norfolk Southern Railroad's tracks were thick with debris. A train was stopped for approximately four hours while workers remove a tree that had fallen on its cars while traveling through the storm.

On neighboring Depot Street, one man was injured after the roof of his home was partially blown away.

Home owner Ottis Hannah was taken to the hospital with minor abrasions, said relatives.

The Hannah home was joined in its destruction by surrounding trees, many snapped in half by the wind if not uprooted completely.

"We heard the wind come through," said witness Mary Rowland. "I saw the trees laying down, and we took off and went to the storm shelter."

Some had to make do in their hallways. At the Keith residence, a Walnut tree smashed into the middle of their mobile home as they waited out the storm.

"It made a real loud crashing," said Mary Keith.

"It was a wild ride, I'll tell you," said Henry Keith.

Storm hits before warning message

The storm's violence was just as surprising to their neighbors. Several witnesses said they had heard no warning about the pending disaster. "I watched the weather from two o'clock on, and by the time it (a storm warning) came on for Casey and the edge of Lincoln, it had already hit us," said Rowland.

The National Weather Service had notified emergency dispatchers at 3 p.m. of severe thunderstorms entering the area, but the storm hit before the message could be relayed.

As crews worked after the gale to clear tree-clogged roadways, the temporarily homeless worked to find shelter with friends or family before nightfall.

The Keiths said they planned to stay in their damaged home that evening, despite the lack of electricity. Theirs was one of many homes without phone service or electricity at sunset.

But it was not for lack of response by utility companies. The highway was closed for several hours while electricians worked to repair downed power lines, telephone poles and phone lines. They were joined by Waynesburg EMS and six fire stations - McKinney, Highland, Stanford, Waynesburg, Broughtontown and Moreland, who directed traffic, calmed residents and cleared roads of debris.

"We've got a pretty good crowd here," said Todd.

Magistrate Earlin "Dude" Cress was also on the scene to assist constituents.

"It looks like a pretty nasty thing to me. Every road I've been on there's been wires down," said Cress.

Todd said he hoped to alleviate some of the storm's affects by nightfall, reopening roadways and securing the neighborhood, but Thursday's horizon was already gathering clouds.

"We'll try to wrap up hopefully before dark," said Todd. " We'll do a damage assessment in the morning, because the severe weather is moving in again."

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