Residents regroup after wild storms cause extensive damage across the region

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Residents regroup after wild storms cause damage across the region
Trees toppled onto homes, thousands were left in the dark and a lightning strike may have started a fire that forced people out of their homes.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The power of Mother Nature was on display Monday as blinding rain, lightning and strong winds left a mark on the region.

Trees toppled onto homes, thousands of people were left in the dark and a lightning strike may have started a fire that forced several people out of their homes.

In Chapel Hill, a large tree was uprooted and crashed into a home on Hamilton Drive.

"I just heard a loud boom and then the tree like, fell down, and it was probably two booms one time and the whole house just collapsed," said Isabel Martinez, who had just gotten home from school.

In Chapel Hill, a large tree was uprooted and crashed into a home on Hamilton Drive.

It's just like horror I guess," she added. "I didn't know Mother Nature could do that powerful things mostly."

Chapel Hill firefighters also worked a fire at an apartment complex on the 600 block of Perkins Drive off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Fire chief Vencelin Harris said it was reported that lightning struck the building but the department is still investigating the incident.

Everyone got out of the units safely.

Harris said initially it looked like nine units were damaged, He later amended that to four units and said seven people were displaced.

"We're just trying to determine the cause," Harris said. "We had a line of storms come through that did some damage in the town and this is just one of the effects of it."

As flames tore through the apartment building, residents scampered to safety.

"Just working at my desk looking out the window, saw a bright flash, alarms started going off, didn't think anything of it at first and then neighbors were knocking at the door saying your building is on fire... obviously I got out of there," said a man who lives catty-corner to where the flames broke out. "Not quite your normal day, the afternoon didn't quite go as planned, as long as everyone got out safe and sound."

The man who was in the home that sustained the most damage said a huge lightning strike woke him up.

"I couldn't remember. I just froze," he said.

Storm unleashes fury on Durham neighborhood

A neighborhood in Durham is also in cleanup mode after the powerful storms brought down trees in the Grove Park area off NC 98.

A family that lives in a home on Grove Ridge Drive was forced to go stay with relatives after a huge tree came crashing down on the back of their house.

No one was injured, but the incident was illustrative of the level of destruction across that part of Durham

In that neighborhood, residents were hauling away tree limbs of all sizes.

"Seems like a tornado went straight through across the lake and behind the houses," said Grove Park resident Lindsey Slater whose home suffered serious tree damage.

An entire tree blew onto the two-story house, knocking 20 holes in the roof and crushing both family cars.

She and her husband are just married and Slater said it was her first tornado warning.

"I got an alert on my phone that said tornado warning. so we booked it downstairs to the closet with our dog. and then like 40 seconds later, this all happened. it was pretty scary."

Across the way on Holder Road, Harold Wade surveyed the damage at his home.

"Oh my God," Wade said. "That was the fastest five seconds I've ever seen in my life."

The winds sheered off the tops of backyard trees and hurled them on top of his shed.

His front-yard tree was uprooted, and the wind pushed it right on top of the house his family bought 50 years ago -- doing damage they haven't seen since Hurricane Fran.

"Now, 25 years ago, I lost a bunch of trees. I didn't think that would ever happen again," Wade said. "Twenty-five years later, we got the same thing but without the cosmetic damage.

Another nearby resident, Tim Ellis, said the storm was "picking up 35-gallon drums of water in my backyard when it came across so fast ... like it was nothing."

Whether it was straight-line winds or a full-fledged tornado -- it was powerful.

Another tree on Grove Ridge Drive landed inside a home. The man inside was lucky not to be hurt as the extreme weather came way too close for comfort.

"The thing is, when it came, everything that was breaking off was breaking off reverse," Ellis said. "So, if you look, the wind came that way. but everything fell back this way.."

The National Weather Service will determine later this week whether all this was caused by a tornado

But the more pressing matter for the folks in Grove Park on Monday night is getting tarps on these roofs to prevent further damage -- and giving thanks that no one was seriously hurt.

Click here to view the latest weather alerts.

Others were dealing with no electricity.

Duke Energy said as many as 17,000 customers in Durham and southern Durham County were without power Monday afternoon.

Thousands remained without power overnight.

Flooding and water rescues

In Hillsborough, flash flooding caused problems at S. Churton Street and Orange Grove Road.

And to the east in Alamance County. Burlington firefighters responded to multiple water rescues.

The first water rescue happened in the 200 block of N. Graham Hopedale Road, at 3:25 p.m. when a vehicle became stranded in floodwaters. Firefighters got the occupants out and to safety. Ten minutes later, another water rescue happened in the 300 block of N. Cobb Avenue where a woman tried to help her dog, which had become trapped in floodwaters. The woman became trapped as well, but emergency crews got her and her dog to safety.

At about the same time, a third incident happened in the 500 block of Piedmont Way where an adult and several children became stranded in their vehicle as it was overcome by floodwaters. Burlington firefighters arrived and took them to safety. They were then evaluated by Alamance County EMS. The extent of their injuries is not known, but officials said they were not thought to be life-threatening.

Burlington crews also stayed busy with downed powerlines and tree debris as well as two motor vehicle accidents during the height of the severe weather, one on Interstates 40/85 near exit 145 and another on West Webb Avenue.

Several tornado warnings were issued throughout the afternoon.

The First Alert Weather Team broke into live coverage just before 3 p.m. when a tornado warning and a radar indicated tornado appeared around Chatham and Lee counties.

This line of storms was associated with a cold front moving into the area. Widespread showers and storms continue throughout Monday evening.

Road ponding and isolated street flooding could happen in some areas. Rain totals will likely be around 1-2 inches in most places, but some areas could see as much as 3 inches.