Storms continue in county

Access to one of Catawba County’s most historic structures is temporarily closed after strong storms and winds toppled over trees in the area.

Strong winds blew about five trees across the trail Wednesday that provides walking access to the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, forcing county officials to close the famous landmark temporarily.

“The trail is closed for a period of time until we can get the trees cut and cleared,” said Melinda Herzog, executive director of the Catawba County Historical Association. “The bridge was spared. The bridge is fine, and we are very grateful for that.”

The Bunker Hill Bridge was built in the late 1800s and is the last standing covered bridge in its original site in North Carolina, Herzog said. The bridge also has significant historic associations with the Civil War, but also with the American Revolution, according to the historical association’s website.

Herzog said Catawba County clean-up crews are helping remove tree debris from the trail, and she hopes to get access to the bridge open soon.

Wednesday night’s storms caused tree damage and power outages across the Catawba County area, giving local first responders, like the Newton
Fire Department, a busy night.

Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder said his department responded to about 12 calls in an 80-minute time span Wednesday. Yoder said most calls were for trees and power lines down across roadways, adding that 17 off-duty and reserve firefighters responded to assist with the increased call volume. Maiden Fire Department also assisted Newton on Wednesday on a call regarding a small outbuilding that was blown into the roadway on Dellinger Drive.

The blown over outbuilding was one of the only “significant” calls reported, said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County Emergency Management coordinator.

Yaussy said about two-dozen people were without power temporarily from Wednesday night to early Thursday morning.

“We had some measurable gusts at 35 to 40 mph,” Yaussy said, adding that it is “entirely possible” that wind speeds reached up to 70 mph.

After the storms, utility crews around the county were out in force to clean up damages throughout the area.

Newton Public Works and Utilities Director Wilce Martin said his department called in 10 employees in the electric and street divisions to deal with the repair and clean-up. Martin said the high winds caused numerous trees and tree limbs to fall on power lines, resulting in the three-hour power outage in the city.

Good for business

Remnants from Wednesday’s storms was not bad news for everyone.

Tree removal and clean-up companies in the area were working hard Thursday to fix wreckage and damage left by the previous night’s weather.

Joey Rowe, owner of Absolute Tree Care in Hickory, said his company is almost six weeks behind in work because of recent pop-up storms.

“Usually the summer time is slower because people are on vacation and stuff like that,” Rowe said. “But these storms have helped business out a lot.”

In addition to cutting down a large tree outside Sebatian’s Boutique and Design on Thursday, Absolute Tree Care removed a tree off of Conover resident Crystal Sopala’s car.

Sopala, who was visiting her parents’ residence, parked her Honda Civic in the driveway and was getting ready to leave when a “terrible” storm hit.

“I opened the car port from the back door, saw the tree and didn’t know what to say,” Sopala said. “I was shocked.”