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Early March IS Like a Lion

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RALEIGH — The month of March seems to be up to her usualtricks. She gives us just a touch of balmy weather, and then suddenlyshows us that the adage "March comes in like a lion" has its basis incenturies of experience. Last night the lion roared through NorthCarolina.

Porch furniture was blown over to the neighbors' house, branchesdropped from trees, and the wind howled enough to make the family dogsnuggle just a bit closer for reassurance. In some areas, power lineswere downed.

Heavy rain and winds between 40 mph and 60 mph moved across NorthCarolina starting in the mountains about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and movingacross the sounds in the southeastern part of the state later in thenight.

Possible tornados were reported in Surry, Stokes and Rockinghamcounties, but none had been confirmed as of 1 a.m. Dime-sized hail wasreported Wednesday in Winston-Salem.

The storm had far more serious consequences for two people. InWinston-Salem, a woman died when a pine tree blewover and fell on her minivan at about 5:45 p.m. as she was taking her sonhome from soccer practice.

Janice Irwin Messier, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene, police Lt.Louis Saunders said. Her 12-year-oldson, Kyle, was in stable condition Wednesday night at North CarolinaBaptist Hospital, Saunders said

Robert Ray Watkins, 75, of Stoneville died after he swerved off stateroad 1360 to avoid a tree that had blownover in the storm and hit a utility pole, according to the Highway Patrol.That accident occurred at 6:30 p.m. just north of Stoneville in RockinghamCounty.

Wind caught a corner of the Four Brothers store just east of U.S. 52 inPinnacle and tipped the roof and the frontand side walls to the opposite side of the store. Most of the items insideremained upright. Paul Johnson, whowalked into the store as the wind started blowing the building apart,suffered minor injuries.

"I could hear the tin flying off the roof," said clerk Tim Branch. "Then the whole thing just started to turn. We all jumped on the floor.There wasn't enough time to get scared."

Two gasoline pumps at the Pleasant Hill Grocery in Northampton Countyignited after they were uprooted by high winds. It took more than 20firefighters and 30 minutes to put outthe fire, Glenn Anderson, chief of the Pleasant Hill volunteer firedepartment, said.

Duke Power reported 46,716 outages from as far west as Hickory and asfar north as Mt. Airy. More than 28,000 customers were still without powerat 10 p.m., Duke Power spokesman Bob Lawrence said. The company hoped tohave most of the power restored by this morning.

WRAL-TV5 Weather Center meteorologist Mike Maze said two fast-movingcold fronts are dominant in the state's weather. The first, which justpassed through, will bring 25 mph winds today, with gusts even higher, sothe temperature will feel colder, possibly feeling as if it were in the30s.

Maze said a cold northwest flow of air will arrive tonight, againdropping temperatures. He expects overnight lows to drop to 20s or 30s,and advises that tender plants be brought indoors if possible, or coveredfor the night.

Some years ago, there was a popular song whose lyrics began, "Marchcomes in like a lion, a-whippin' up the water in the bay." The song movesthrough April and May, finally getting to its hearty title, "June isBustin' Out All Over." So if March has been a little fierce so far, justremember it is the price we pay for May and June.

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