Weather

Strong storms cross NC, killing one

Posted March 23, 2011 8:25 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2011 12:06 p.m. EDT

— Storms spawned strong winds that killed a man and damaged homes across the state and also cast lightning that might have sparked a house fire late Wednesday.

Before hitting the Triangle, the cold front that produced the storms killed a man in Polk County in western North Carolina.

William Allison, 55, was driving near his home Wednesday afternoon when a tree was blown over and fell on his truck, killing him, reports the Hendersonville Times-News.

Thunderstorms broke out in the Triangle when the cold front crossed the region late Wednesday.

A loud blast during a thunderstorm woke Karen Moldt up in her home at 322 Park Meadow Drive in Cary around 11:30 p.m.

"It was just a very loud explosion," Moldt said. "I couldn't tell if a tree had been hit or fallen. That's why I left my bedroom immediately, because it sounded like something had happened on the roof."

Moldt quickly discovered that she was correct – her roof was on fire.

Firefighters responded and contained the blaze to the attic. No one was injured.

"The roof and the third floor are heavily damaged, but the rest of the house is safe, so I feel very fortunate," Moldt said.

Firefighters said lightning could have caused the fire, but the cause remains under investigation.

There wasn't a typical storm around, though, when strong winds suddenly whipped in and damaged a home on Cecil Road in the Johnston County town of Archer Lodge.

"We were sitting in the rocking chair with my little 3-year-old," Nicole Ferrell said. "We felt the house just start shaking – no warning. It was just really chaotic."

The home's doors blew open, and the ceiling separated from the living room wall, tearing off the roof. All of the furniture on the back porch blew away, and a trampoline in the yard was thrown against a fence and shattered.

No one was injured, but those at home were shaken, including third-grader Colby Ferrell.

"I'm fine about thunderstorms, but it's tornadoes," Colby said.

The cause of the damage was likely not a tornado, but straight-line winds or downbursts, which can be as strong as a tornado, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

National Weather Service meteorologists will visit the site Thursday to determine whether a tornado or strong winds hit the area.

Elsewhere, a Wilson County family lost the roof from their mobile home during a strong thunderstorm. Greg Franklin said he and his son were inside their Elm City home when the roof blew off around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Strong winds also toppled a tree onto a house on Harris Point Way in Wake Forest Wednesday night. A large tree fell over in Pullen Park in Raleigh.

The storms caused power outages through the night, but crews restored service to most customers by daylight Thursday.

Moldt summed up the feelings of many residents who got a rude awakening from the storms.

"It's just kind of a strange feeling to know your home isn't safe to live in," she said.