'Real strong wind': Microburst downs century old trees in Orange County

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Saturday, July 1, 2023
Microburst downs century-old trees in Orange County
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Crews in Orange County are working to restore power after damage left behind by strong storms and a microburst Friday night.

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lynn and Ricky Merritt spent much of their Saturday clearing limbs and branches from their family homes. We caught up with them at their nephew's home in southern Orange County, where they described their experience during severe weather that arrived overnight.

"Just a lot of hard rain and a lot of noise. Real strong wind, didn't last long at all," said Ricky Merritt. "Had to wait about an hour or more, before you come outside because of all the sharp lightning and all. Came out, saw this tree here, looked toward my old place and it was just limbs and trees everywhere."

They lost power for a while, too.

Crews were working on repairs to restore the electricity, not far away from the Merritts'. The couple suspected a tornado caused the damage in their neighborhood, including trees that stood for a century or more.

"How powerful it was, and how quickly it came up. Wasn't really expecting anything. Nobody was hurt. All souls are safe," Lynn Merritt said.

Sheriff Charles Blackwood confirmed the cause of the damage on his Facebook page

While the rest of us are planning cookouts and deciding which fireworks show to attend, the folks on Mangum Court in southern Orange County are cleaning up after what was determined to be a microburst. At approximately 10:00 pm last night (Friday, June 30th) heavy rains and extreme winds cut a swath from the tip of Chatham County around Governor's Village through the back side of Mount Carmel Baptist Church and exited at Mangum Court. 100-year-old oak trees and tall pines were uprooted, twisted, and split apart like toothpicks. Power crews are working to get the power back on while road crews are clearing the roads. Miraculously no injuries have been reported and although many huge trees were damaged and taken down, apparently only one home and one car suffered damage. This is a resilient community and they were all out helping one another like neighbors do.

"Much worse than Fran. We had no uprooted trees in Fran. A lot of leaf debris-- Trees haven't uprooted like this since Hazel," Lynn Merritt said about the damage.