Weather

Wind Knocks Out Durham Bull, Trees, Power Lines

Posted April 16, 2007 11:32 a.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2007 11:22 a.m. EDT

— High winds downed trees and power lines throughout the area Monday and even ripped the head off Durham's ballpark bull, leaving thousands with warming freezers, passengers stuck at RDU Airport, and damaging homes and cars.

Wind gusts of more than 50 mph were reported in central North Carolina, prompting the National Weather Service to upgrade a wind advisory to a high-wind warning across the region.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all outbound flights from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to remain on the ground until the wind died down, RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said. Twelve flights were canceled, primarily because of the nor'easter that has pummeled the northeast with rain and snow since Sunday, and dozens more were delayed for about a half-hour.

"What we are seeing today is the impact of storms in the Northeast and high winds here at RDU," Hamlin said as passengers waited in long lines in the two airport terminals to rebook flights.

"My husband is trying to make phone calls to see if we can get another flight. No matter what international airport we can get out of, we will drive there," said Jacqueline Dielesen, who was hoping to get her family of six home to Belgium.

The famed Snorting Bull that sits atop the left-field wall of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park lost his head to the winds Monday morning. The smoke-snorting bull had been at the park since it opened in 1995, promising a free steak to anyone who hit the bull with a home-run ball.

“It was a sad sight to see,” Durham Bulls General Manager Mike Birling said in a statement. “Mother Nature did what some pretty strong ballplayers never could. I hope she doesn’t expect her free steak, though.”

As of 10 p.m. Monday, Progress Energy crews had restored service to more than 168,000 customers who lost power as a result of the high winds across the Carolinas. Spokesman Mike Hughes said crews were focused on restoring service to the 22,600 customers still without power. More than half of those customers are in western North Carolina.

Duke Power reported more than 14,000 customers were still without power in Durham and Orange counties around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday morning.

"Our crews are on the scene, and as soon as they can get the trees off the lines, we'll get those lines back up and running," Progress Energy spokeswoman Tanya Evans said. "(But) as the day goes on, more trees fall down, and it starts again."

Time Warner reported it had 9,000 cable customers out Monday evening in the area covered by its Raleigh district. About half of those reported outages were due to power outages at the same locations, many of them in Orange County.

Piedmont Electric Membership Cooperative, based in Hillsborough, reported 150 customers remained without power, down from 10,000 earlier in the day. Piedmont 30,000 customers in Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange and Person counties.

Much of the University of North Carolina campus was without power Monday morning, and Chapel Hill police closed off several blocks of East Franklin Street to traffic to allow for crews to clear downed trees and repair power lines.

A tree fell on a minivan on Trinity Avenue in Durham. A mother and her 15-month-old child were inside at the time but were unharmed.

Durham crews had cleared 37 trees from city streets or off power lines by 2 p.m. Monday and were only about halfway done, said Kevin Lilley, facilities operations manager in the city Department of General Services.

"(We) will be working throughout the day and into (Tuesday) to remove these trees," Lilley said in a statement.

Wake County had more than 200 reports of wind damage on Monday, most involving downed power lines and trees.

A tree fell on a house on Glen Eden Road in Raleigh. Homeowner Marianna Fanney was lying down inside when the tree hit, but she escaped uninjured.

"It sounded like a bomb came through, and all of these things fell on top of me. So, it took me about 15 or 20 minutes to get out," Fanney said.

"Everything's gone. There's bricks all inside. I mean, there's holes," she said. "Everybody that's come in this house said I'm lucky to be alive, so I'm thankful for that."

A large tree fell across Brookhaven Road, off Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, knocking out power to nearby homes and York Elementary School and sparking a minor fire, police said. Classes at the school continued as scheduled, and students were given sandwiches for lunch.

"The kids were fine. It was like a normal day other than the power being out," Assistant Principal Shane Barham said.

Three new Hondas were crushed by a tree that fell at Cary Auto Park. Each had fewer than 10 miles on the odometer, but dealership managers said they were insured.

A traffic light was knocked off the line at Capital Boulevard and Interstate 540 in Raleigh, but crews had pushed the mangled light into the median so it wouldn't cause any delays. The state Department of Transportation said no one exiting westbound I-540 at Capital Boulevard will be able to turn left until the light is repaired.

Power lines were down across several intersections across the region, and authorities urged motorists to exercise caution when driving. Intersections without working traffic signals should be treated as four-way stops, authorities said.

"You got to respect the power of Mother Nature, for sure," resident Robert Dew said.