Local News

Storm Rips Through State; Randolph County Feels Brunt Of It

Posted February 23, 2003

— Violent storms Saturday left behind a big mess across the state.

Randolph County felt the brunt of the storm. Strong winds ripped apart roofs and knocked down power lines and trees across Asheboro.

In Raleigh, a downpour of rain flooded roads and stalled traffic near Crabtree Valley mall.

Police shut down lanes on Glenwood Avenue because they turned into pools of standing water. Some sidewalks even turned into shallow streams.

Strong winds also caused serious damage in Onslow County. The gusts flipped three cars and damaged 60 others at Camp Johnson, a Marine base near Jacksonville. Windows in several buildings were also blown out.

The storm knocked down power lines and trees throughout Randolph County. In Asheboro, a mall parking lot was littered with gutter fragments, pieces of signs and brush.

The National Weather Service had issued tornado watches and flash-flood warnings throughout the state during the day.

Duke Power Co. reported 10,000 customers without power Sunday morning in North Carolina and South Carolina. The majority of the outages were in Gastonia and Charlotte, with 350 outages reported in Durham and 250 in Chapel Hill.

Progress Energy said the storm knocked out power to some 7,000 customers at the peak in North Carolina and South Carolina. By Saturday night, only 896 customers were without power.

Just outside the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA on N.C. 42, a soccer facility was leveled. As many as 500 people were inside the main building when the storm hit, said Patrick O'Hara, executive director of the YMCA.

Several different activities were going on in the gym, including a basketball tournament, a soccer game and Special Olympics activities.

A burst of wind blew out several windows in the building.

"We were really lucky because so many people were inside," he said, picking up the remains of the soccer field house that were tossed across the street.

"We really didn't hear it coming," he said. "Rain came into the gym, and then it was gone. It only lasted for like a minute."

Monitech Inc., a Raleigh-based business that manufactures breathalyzer tests, took a direct hit in the path of the storm. A garage bay was ripped apart, and insulation from a newly built wall was flung into trees and neighboring yards.

Dale Jones of Asheboro looked outside immediately after the tornado passed and found a neighbor's broken carport in his yard.

"This certainly wasn't how we expected to spend our Saturday afternoon," he said. "It could've been a lot worse, but I really didn't expect it."

Police reported a mobile home business sustained about $500,000 in damage. The Sagebrush restaurant reported as much as $12,000 in damage.

Roofs at South Asheboro Middle School and Asheboro High School also were damaged, and a steeple was blown off East Side Baptist Church.

The rain also wiped out all activities at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race was postponed until Monday, and both practice sessions for Sunday's Winston Cup race were canceled.

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