Cleanup begins after strong storms damage homes, down trees

Posted April 29, 2016 9:43 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT

— Residents in several central North Carolina communities were cleaning up Friday after a round of strong spring thunderstorms pushed through the region Thursday night.

Storms packing damaging straight-line winds, torrential rain, frequent lightning and hail pushed into the area during the early evening hours, and they left damage in many areas.

Clark McKeever said he was in his home along Bethlehem Church Road in Zebulon when the storms rolled through.

"It sounded liked a jet aircraft was taking off right over my house. When the first tree came down I tried to protect my birds," he said.

McKeever said he's had several friends reach out to help him repair his home, which had a section of a fallen tree on it Friday morning.

"The response from my friends has been fantastic. It looks like to me it could have been a small tornado or straight-line winds," he said.

Russ Vollmer, the owner of Vollmer Farm in Franklin County, said the storm caused about $70,000 in damage to strawberries at his facility.

Despite the damage, the farm was able to salvage many of the damaged strawberries. Volunteers showed up in droves Friday to the 5-acre field to pick damaged fruit, and Vollmer said those berries will be donated to local nonprofits – a way to make some good come from a bad situation.

"We've had a tremendous loss here, what can we do?" Vollmer said. "It can at least go to some people who could use it."

Several local nonprofits stopped by the farm Friday afternoon to pick up fruit, and as of 4 p.m. workers and volunteers had picked more than 1,300 pounds of berries that could be donated.

There were several hail reports across the central part of the state, including in Chatham, Orange and Cumberland counties. Several wind damage reports were made in Wake County, especially in the northeastern section of the county.

Strong winds downed trees in some areas and knocked out power. Duke Energy reported as many as 5,000 outages in Wake County late Thursday night.

In Cary, near the intersection of Kildaire Farm and Cary Parkway, trees buckled under the weight of the wind, crashing into cars along the roadway.

Authorities said that a fire broke out at a home on Okamato Street in Garner after the house was struck by lightning.

Viewers also sent in storm damage photos from Rolesville and Youngsville, two areas that saw powerful storms push through.

The storms also led to problems on the roads. Wet roads led to a multi-car wreck on N.C. Highway 54 in Orange County.

Emergency crews told WRAL News that quarter-sized hail and heavy fog caused four drivers to lose control of their cars, which forced one vehicle into a ditch.

Skies will clear out on the final day of the work week, but more storms are possible over the weekend. WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner says chances are better on Sunday than Saturday, but the area shouldn't see severe weather similar to what moved through Thursday.