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Strong winds topple trees, power lines

April 5, 2011

Kevin Laney and his fiance Shelly Ball picked up the twisted springs and ripped nets from a trampoline thrown 50 yards during a storm early Tuesday morning.

Laney and Ball, both of Maiden, pick up scrap metal and sell the pieces for money. For them, Tuesday's destructive storm is both a blessing and a curse. By Tuesday at 10 a.m., Laney had hauled the remains of about two trampolines in the back of his pickup truck, and he was preparing to get more.

Scrap metal, tree branches and other debris littered the streets of Maiden and Sherrills Ford as daylight dawned Tuesday. The trash was a reminder of the wind, rain, hail and thunder that swept through Catawba County on Tuesday about 1:30 a.m.

"It woke us up in the middle of the night," Laney said. "There wasn't anybody hurt. That's a good thing."

Maiden, Sherrills Ford hit hard

Many Catawba County residents awoke Tuesday morning to the sounds of rumbling thunder and heavy rains. Although the storm was widespread, most of the storm's damage occurred in the Maiden and Sherrills Ford areas. Catawba County Emergency Management coordinator Karyn Yaussy said one mobile home sustained major damage, while about eight other homes had minor damage. There were no reports of damage to commercial or public structures, and no reported injuries.

Maiden Fire Chief Danny Hipps said the department received more than 30 service calls during and after the storm. Most of the storm's damage, he said, occurred on Maiden's East Main and Union streets, as well as Sipe Road.

The broken tree limbs, shattered glass and snapped power lines appear to be the aftermath of a tornado, but Catawba County Emergency Services said rotating winds and a funnel cloud aren't responsible for the damage.

"Our feeling, and (weather officials) concur, is that it was straight-line winds and not a tornado," Yaussy said.

Straight-line winds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are any thunderstorm winds not associated with rotating winds, like those found during a tornado.

But no tornado-like winds doesn't mean Tuesday's storm was insignificant.

"Straight-line winds can be as damaging, if not more, that a tornado," Yaussy said.

The clean-up process

Maiden resident Mary Arndt White doesn't know what kind of storm made a tree fall on her house, she just knows she doesn't want it to happen again.

"It scared me to death," said 84-year-old Arndt, who lives on Providence Mill Road. "I didn't think about a storm like this. ... When I got to the windows, the storm hit. Hail, wind, everything."

A large tree fell beside Arndt's house, breaking her windows and pulling down the gutter around her roof.

The storm also snapped pine trees in a wooded lot beside Arndt's home.

Her husband planted the trees, and he died more than a decade ago.

Arndt was one of many residents without power Tuesday afternoon as crews worked to repair power lines downed from the storm. Arndt said her power stayed on throughout the storm, but the power went out during the repair process.

A part of Providence Mill Road was down to one lane of traffic Tuesday as workers appeared to fix a power line that was snapped in half.

About 3 miles from Providence Mill Road on North Olivers Crossroads in Newton, members of St. Paul United Methodist Church worked Tuesday to repair their sanctuary.

The church's steeple was snapped off its pedestal from wind gusts, leaving the 10-foot-tall structure laying in the church's front yard.

"It's the first time we've ever had any trouble," said church member Ben Campbell, whose daughter reported the downed steeple early Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday about 11 a.m., Campbell and other church-goers turned the steeple right-side up and managed to save some of the stained glass surrounding the steeple base.

Campbell said the steeple will have to be replaced with a new one, but the church plans on keeping the damaged steeple.

Public Works crews from Maiden, area fire departments and the North Carolina Department of Transportation worked around the clock Tuesday to clear roadways and reconnect power for residents.

"They worked all night long, and they've worked all day," said Maiden Town Manager Todd Herms.

Herms reported Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. that all phases of the town's power grid where turned back on for residents. He estimated that about three houses needed additional time to restore power.

Herms said Public Works crews were installing power poles Tuesday afternoon to provide power to Maiden's elementary, middle and high schools. Classes were expected to continue as scheduled Wednesday.

Many residents spent Tuesday morning and afternoon outside their homes, removing stray limbs and garbage from their yards, cars and buildings.

For White, the clean-up process is just one part of being a homeowner.

"Hurricane Hugo came through, and then an ice storm hit," White said. "And I just cleaned it up."

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