Strong storm crosses NC, but 'we were anticipating worse'

Posted April 5, 2011 5:39 a.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2011 6:44 p.m. EDT

— Strong winds and heavy rain moved across the Triangle early Tuesday, leaving downed trees and scattered debris, but the storm has not been as damaging as expected.

"We're breathing a little sigh of relief," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "We were anticipating worse this morning. Still, it's nothing to shake a stick at."

As much as 2 inches of rain fell per hour as the line of storms moved at 40 to 50 mph across the state.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said a half-inch of rain was recorded at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, while 1.45 inches fell in Fayetteville.

Trees crashed through homes in Garner and Siler City. In Durham, a tree fell on a car.

The roofs of two buildings in downtown Siler City were blown off during the storm, according to the Siler City Fire Department. One of the roofs downed power lines and landed on a vehicle.

More than eight buildings in Siler City reported roof damage, and about five cars were damaged. No injuries were reported.

Terry McInturff, who makes guitars in the North Carolina Arts Incubator in downtown Siler City, said he stepped outside the building at about 8:15 a.m.

'I noticed some low-hanging, gray clouds moving at a rapid rate of speed, went down into the street (and) then – Bam! – I was hit by extreme wind," McInturff said. "I was lifted about a foot off the ground and tossed about 3 to 4 feet to my right."

As he ran back inside, he said he heard part of the roof tear off.

"I just kept my head down and ran, and I'm delighted to find out I can still run fast," he said with a laugh.

Thousands were left without power from the storms. 

Progress Energy reported 14,500 customers in the state were without power, including 5,700 in Wake County and 1,255 in Chatham County. Power was restored by the end of the day. 

Duke Energy reported 200,000 outages in the Carolinas. The hardest hit areas were in the Triad, Durham and Chapel Hill, company officials said.

The front pushed through the state by lunchtime Tuesday, leaving the rest of the day cloudy and breezy with a high of 64 degrees.

The National Weather Service issued a frost advisory for much of central North Carolina for Tuesday night. Fishel said temperatures would continue to increase as the week goes on, with a high of 68 Wednesday, 75 Thursday and 81 Friday before a front passes through over the weekend.

McInturff said that, once the cleanup is done in Siler City, he thinks the community will be closer than ever.

"It may be a little bit reminder of what a special thing we have going," he said.