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Strong Storms, Tornadoes Impact Western NC

A line of strong storms moved across North Carolina Monday afternoon and evening devastating a regional airport, damaging dozens of homes, toppling trees, closing roads and leaving several western North Carolina communities without power.

“While this band of storms brought high wind, rains and some damage, we’re fortunate that we’ve had no reports of serious injuries or loss of life,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Today, communities are surveying the damage and beginning the cleanup, and our state experts stand ready to help however needed.”

Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for many western and central counties, and National Weather Service meteorologists will be on the ground conducting a survey today to confirm if tornadoes actually touched down. Local emergency management crews will conduct initial damage assessments today, then coordinate with state EM officials this week to determine what types of state or federal assistance may be available.

By 2 p.m., approximately 54,500 homes and businesses still were without power, down from a peak of more than 92,000 last night. The greatest numbers of outages were in Catawba, Wilkes, Alexander, Burke and Caldwell counties. Authorities in Watauga and McDowell counties reported completing water rescues as heavy rains caused flash floods in some areas. Shelters are currently open in Caldwell, Wilkes and Watauga counties.

A short section of US 64 in Henderson County was closed due to a small mudslide but has since reopened. Downed power lines and trees closed multiple secondary roads in Alexander, Ashe, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland and Wilkes counties. High water submerged low bridges in Watauga County and flooded several secondary roads in Henderson and Polk County. At the Hickory Regional Airport, winds destroyed a hangar and overturned planes and cars. 

A retaining wall at the top parking lot in the Chimney Rock section of Chimney Rock State Park in Rutherford County collapsed from heavy rainfall. Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park will be closed until further notice while repairs are completed.

NC Emergency Management is sending chain saw crews from the N.C. Forest Service to Alexander, Burke and Caldwell counties to help clear debris.

Burke, Caldwell, Wilkes and Catawba counties declared local states of emergency due to the storms. The formal declaration enables jurisdictions to seek state or federal aid if needed.

Schools are closed today in Alexander County, while Ashe, Caldwell and Catawba County schools are on a two-hour delay. Five Caldwell schools will be closed for the day due to trees blocking roads or power outages.

The following is a brief synopsis of known damages at this time:

  • Caldwell County – Dozens of homes damaged, many are in the Grace Chapel area. A shelter is open at South Caldwell High School; nearly 1,700 power outages.
  • Alexander County – Approximately 10 to 15 homes damaged; multiple roads blocked, power outages.
  • Catawba Co. – severe damage at the Hickory Regional Airport; several roads blocked by downed trees; a few homes damaged; nearly 14,000 power outages.
  • Cleveland County – post office roof damaged.  
  • Ashe County – minor flooding and trees down.  
  • Burke County – multiple buildings damaged in the Hildebran area; approximately 5,000 power outages throughout county.
  • Henderson County – area flooding.

“As our county emergency managers survey their communities, we’ll have a better idea of the extent and types of damage these storms caused,” said state Emergency Manager Mike Sprayberry.

Sprayberry said once emergency managers have a clearer picture of the nature of the damages, they will be able to determine what, if any, state or federal aid may be available to help individuals and communities recover from these latest storms.