Photos, Videos, Illustrations of Friday Night’s Brief But Powerful Storm in the High Country

Published Monday, July 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm
Linemen are restoring final 300 without power from Friday's storm: Sherwood, Sugar Grv, Bethel in Watauga Cnty. Courtesy BREMCO

Linemen are restoring final 300 without power from Friday’s storm: Sherwood, Sugar Grv, Bethel in Watauga Cnty. Courtesy BREMCO

VIDEO FILMED ON WATAUGA LAKE

By Jesse Wood

As Blue Ridge Electric lineman work in Western Watauga to restore power to the last 300 customers still without, emergency officials in Watauga County are in the initial stages of assessing the damage from Mother Nature’s 10 minutes of fury on Friday night.

Watauga County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Sudderth said that it’s too early to tell how much damage the storm inflicted on properties in the High Country. Sudderth is asking Watauga County property owners to email pictures of any damage with the street address to [email protected] and [email protected].

“We don’t know yet. The biggest damage is going to be the public assistance with the power companies and they go through the state when they report their cost of putting everything back together,” Sudderth said. “That’s kind of where we are at. I don’t think we are going to reach the level of any type of declaration. We’ll see.”

Sudderth noted that one person was injured in the county when a tree fell on their car. That person was transported to the Watauga Medical Center and their condition is currently unknown.

The storm was quick yet powerful. RaysWeather.com posted that the storm lasted about 13 minutes and produced straight-line winds of 60 to 85 miles per hour. Grandfather Mountain, for example, experienced winds up to 87 mph.

“It’s safe to say that for about 5-10 minutes, some areas were experiencing effects similar to a Category 1 hurricane. While in an event of this magnitude, a small tornado cannot be completely ruled out. No confirmed tornadoes have yet been identified, and there were no radar indications of rotation within these thunderstorms,” RaysWeather.com posted.

See a more technical analysis of the storm at RaysWeather.com.

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A fallen tree caused damage near Queens Street in downtown Boone. Photo courtesy Boone Police Department

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said that the high winds, tree movement and power interruption to thousands caused a bunch of alarms. The deputies conducted many welfare checks on family members who couldn’t contact one another.

“[There were] also many reports of neighbors helping each other with chainsaws and elbow grease – and most of all, a BIG heart,” Hagaman said.

A Red Cross emergency shelter opened at Alliance Bible Fellowship on Friday evening.

Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO) said this was the most “devastating storm” since 2009. More than 100 linemen from BREMCO and cooperatives across the state worked on more than 18,000 power outages in BREMCO’s territory.

As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 1,500 customers in Watauga County and another 150 in Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Wilkes counties were still without power. As of first-thing Monday morning, the total number of outages in the BREMCO area dwindled to about 300.

BREMCO reported that after Alleghany County power was restored, a car accident on Saturday took down power poles and lines, which led to additional outages. BREMCO responded to more than 150 damaged locations, and 50 power poles were broken in the storm.

“This was a highly unusual and unprecedented summer storm,” said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Electric.

“We heard reports of 80-mile-per hour winds and many trees taken down across our service area in a short amount of time Friday evening—many of which tore down our power lines and broke power poles,” said Johnson.

“The storm affected most of the state and caused severe outage situations for other utilities, which led to having fewer additional resources available to us and to other utilities. We are very grateful to the visiting crews from French Broad, Rutherford, Jones Onslow, Central, Piedmont and Edgecombe Martin cooperatives who assisted our linemen and technical staff in getting power restored as quickly and safely as possible.”

BREMCO ADVISORY

If you are the only household in your neighborhood without power, Blue Ridge Electric advises you to call the cooperative’s PowerLine at 1-800-448-2383 and report the outage even if you have already done so.

Members are also advised to stay far away from downed power lines as they can still be energized and dangerous, even deadly! Members are asked to report downed power lines and their location by calling any local Blue Ridge Electric district office to speak to a member services representative.

Outage updates and other helpful information is available on the cooperative’s social media sites at: www.facebook.com/blueridgeemc and www.twitter.com/blueridgeemc.

For safety tips and other information including views of the cooperative’s social media pages, please visit the website at www.BlueRidgeEMC.com.

RaysWeather.com Analysis of Storm

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Here’s how RaysWeather.com described the weather event from 6:40 to 6:53 p.m.:

“On Friday evening, July 8,2016, a line of severe thunderstorms entered the region from Tennessee and produced widespread wind damage across parts of the High Country. Within this line, a powerful downrush of wind from a thunderstorm’s downdraft produced a bow echo on radar as it accelerated across Watauga and southern Ashe County.

“This downburst produced major straight-line wind damage with winds of 60-85 mph+ as this feature moved across. While this kind of event is rare for the mountains, the atmospheric profiles of moisture and instability were nearly ideal for this occurrence, along with the time of day.

“The dBZ values between 60 and 70 indicate an extreme event. It’s safe to say that for about 5-10 minutes, some areas were experiencing effects similar to a Category 1 hurricane. While in an event of this magnitude, a small tornado cannot be completely ruled out. No confirmed tornadoes have yet been identified, and there were no radar indications of rotation within these thunderstorms.”

Old Tornado Photo From Colorado Spreads Like Wildfire

After the storm on Friday evening, a photo of a tornado supposedly taken in Bethel spread like wildfire on social media. That photo, however, was actually taken a few years earlier in Colorado. See image below.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said that several eyewitnesses reported seeing funnel clouds in the High Country, but as RaysWeather.com noted, WCNC Meteorologist Brad Panovich posted on Facebook that no tornado occurred.

“While there were no tornadoes in the area Friday, it’s important to understand that widespread damage from straight line winds is just as dangerous. Our focus on what we call things needs to end and the focus on the impacts are all that matter in severe weather. Here’s a link to learn more about downbursts and straight line winds which account for 90% of all wind damage across the U.S. annually.”

Fallen Tree Kills Two Campers at Watauga Lake

Former Carter County Court Clerk, John Mathes and his wife, Robin, were camping in a cove at Watauga Lake when Friday night’s storm hit the High Country. The couple was killed when a tree fell onto their tent. “It was a sad evening,” storm witness Linda Hardin told WCYB. “It was just like a war zone. All the trees were down campers were damaged.”

Town of Boone Storm Debris Pick-Up Notice & Greenway Closure

The Town of Boone Public Works Department will provide town residential storm debris pick-up on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis beginning today, July 11, 2016.

Storm debris should be placed curbside and free of all other debris. It is NOT necessary to call to schedule a pick-up. Areas that sustained considerable damage will be first priority. The Town of Boone Facilities Maintenance Division may be contacted at 828-268-6230.

The Town of Boone Greenway Trail will be closed today, July 11, 2016 to continue clearing storm damage. Pending the degree of damage, there may be a possible closure tomorrow, July 12, 2016. We apologize for any inconvenience and will open the trail as soon as possible. The Town of Boone Facilities Maintenance Division may be contacted at 828-268-6230.

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This image went viral over the weekend, however it was not a tornado from the Boone area. This image was taken in Colorado in 2012. WCNC Meteorologist Brad Panovich shared this illustration.

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A fallen tree caused damage near Queens Street in downtown Boone. Photo courtesy Boone Police Department

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A fallen tree caused damage near Queens Street in downtown Boone.

Linemen worked to restore outages from severe storms affecting 15,000. Outage map at BlueRidgeEMC.com

Linemen worked to restore outages from severe storms affecting 15,000. Outage map at BlueRidgeEMC.com

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Photo courtesy BREMCO

For your safety, please be careful; debris may be on roads from Friday's storm. These accidents hit power poles. BREMCO posted this on Saturday.

For your safety, please be careful; debris may be on roads from Friday’s storm. These accidents hit power poles. BREMCO posted this on Saturday.

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Courtesy BREMCO

Severe storm damage pic from M High

Scenes from massive restoration effort after devastating summer storm creates damage and thousands of outages in the foothills and High Country. Courtesy BREMCO

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Courtesy BREMCO

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Courtesy BREMCO

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