Convection storms rip through area

Cathy Keener was in the Mountain View Baptist Church Office when she heard the loudest noise of her life.

“It hit so hard and came and went so fast,” said Keener, the administrative assistant at Mountain View. “It was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.”

After hearing the “boom,” Keener rushed outside to find Mountain View’s 28-foot steeple lying on the ground.

Strong winds ripped through Catawba County on Thursday afternoon, tearing down Mountain View’s steeple and knocking over trees throughout the area.

“It went through very quickly, and there was no other property damage that I am aware of,” said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County Emergency Management coordinator. “The only other things we saw were a few other trees that were down in Hickory near second Avenue.”

Yaussy said the brief torrent was a convection storm — something she said Catawba County citizens should be more aware of.

“People need to be more aware of these type of storms as they take a walk in the afternoon or are playing golf in the area,” she said. “The main times people need to be aware of this are in the early afternoon and early evening.”

Convection storms are caused when the earth’s surface heats in the afternoon while humidity levels also increase, Yaussy said. The potentially dangerous storms can cause high winds, hail, heavy rain and tornadoes.

Keener said the storm that hit her church was “horrible.”

“It wasn’t coming down, it was coming sideways,” Keener said.

Hickory Fire Department responded to the church after the steeple blew off, Keener said.

Aaron Winters, the church carpenter, said the fallen steeple left a 12 foot by 12 foot hole in the church’s roof.

“I was getting ready to go home and my boss said, “Want to go on the roof?” Winters said. “We put a tarp over the hole and will probably clean the debris up today or tomorrow.”

The fallen steeple left microscopic bits of fiberglass across the church’s parking lot. A group of church-goers and neighbors congregated around the massive heap after it fell, taking pictures with their cell phones and climbing on the wreckage.

In the presence of storms, the National Weather Service recommends that all citizens prepare a disaster kit that can include:

-First aid kit, including prescription medicines.

-Canned food and can opener (not electric).

-Bottled water (a 3-day supply--include one gallon per person per day).

-One change of clothing and footwear per person.

-One blanket and sleeping bag per person.

-Rubber boots and rubber gloves.

-Emergency tools, including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.

-An extra set of car keys and a credit card or cash.

-Any special items for infants, the elderly, or disabled family members.