Storm tears up Lumber Bridge

First Posted: 5/24/2011

LUMBER BRIDGE — A fierce and fast-moving storm front played havoc with residential and rural roads here Sunday evening, causing damage to some houses and buildings and causing scattered power outages.

No one was seriously hurt in the storm, but it left yards and streets a mess, according to Neil McNeill, assistant fire chief of the Lumber Bridge Volunteer Fire Department.

An ambulance was called to one residence to assist a person “shaken up” by the storm, McNeill said, but they were treated on scene.

At about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, a thunderstorm rapidly descended on Lumber Bridge from the north and headed south as it lambasted the area with heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and hail.

According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, the storm was formed from a “sea breeze” that drifted far inland. Wind speeds were estimated at 60 to 70 mph and the service received reports of 1 inch hail and heavy rain.

The hail didn’t last long once the storm passed — with the rain and warm temperatures — but in the heart of the storm there was a blanket of dime-sized hail covering the yard at McNeill’s house in the 6700 block of N.C. 20.

“It lasted for five minutes. The whole yard had turned white, just like it was snowing,” McNeill said.

There was at least one report of a suspected tornado, but that wasn’t confirmed, he said. The rain and wind did do a number on trees and power lines in and around Lumber Bridge, said McNeill.

“Limbs were down everywhere and tons of debris … people were calling in, you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you,” he said.

Lumber Bridge firefighters were first dispatched out at 7:33 p.m. to an old school building on Quick Road, to check on the well-being of a woman there who was frightened by the storm, McNeill said.

The volunteer fire department had to break off into three teams as the calls for assistance continued through the evening, he said. The last call the department handled saw the firefighters clear the scene at 11:13 p.m.

“We had 15 calls … it sounds like Lumber Bridge got the worst part of storm,” McNeill said.

Much of the work that night was cutting and clearing trees that had been blown over in the storm. There was “a big mess” along Quick Road, as fallen trees and branches sliced cable TV lines in the area.

The most dangerous of the calls happened early in the evening when the firefighters responded to a tree that had fallen onto a house in the 6100 block of N.C. 20 West. The tree pulled down with it an active power line onto the top of the one-story house, McNeill said.

He said they called a Progress Energy crew out to cut the power before they began working to remove the fallen tree.

A large tree also fell into the yard of the Baptist Church in Lumber Bridge.

A few farm fields were damaged in the storm. Corn crops in the area “took a good licking from hail,” said McNeill.

McNeill praised the assistance of Robeson County’s 911 system. “They did a real good job, taking information and dispatching calls, and keeping us straight,” he said. In particular, he wanted to thank dispatcher Callahan for her hard work.

Firefighters from the Shannon Volunteer Fire Department and Parkton Volunteer Fire Department were called to assist Lumber Bridge. The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office also assisted.

The Lumber Bridge VFD received several thank-yous on its Facebook page for its response in the wake of the storm.

Cindy Richardson wrote, “Kudos to the Lumber Bridge Fire Dept for their fast response to the downed power lines and setting up cones for the safety of others. They put their life at risk to respond and do their job. WELL DONE LBFD :-).”

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