First Posted: 6/24/2011
MAXTON — Residents took to the debris-strewn street in Maxton on Friday morning to begin clean-up efforts after a storm tore through the town Thursday afternoon, bringing heavy rain and reports of a tornado and sending trees and power lines crashing down.
Several residents reported seeing a tornado, but the National Weather Service in Wilmington said it is calling straight-line winds of more than 70 mph the cause of the damage from the storm.
“It was like a big, black ball of smoke,” said Elaine Malloy, of South Patterson Street.
Malloy said her sister had just dropped by for a visit at about 4 p.m. She told Malloy and her neighbors that they were under a storm warning and to get into the home.
“No sooner did she walk inside than it dropped down into my back yard,” Malloy said. “It was very frightful. Like a freight train and a big, black ball of smoke.”
Malloy said that a neighbor was driving past the home just as the tornado dropped in and was driving right along side it. As he passed the home a tree fell from Malloy’s back yard into Patterson Street.
Malloy said that everyone in her home was safe, but had been shaken by the storm. She hired a local company to clear the debris from her yard.
Just one block over, Junior Aman, of Baldwin Street, was helping another homeowner on Florence Street clear their yard. His truck bed was overflowing with tree limbs and leaves he had removed from the yard.
“I’m not sure if it was a tornado or straight-line winds,” Aman said, “but the wind was whipping and it was raining like crazy.”
Aman said that he saw penny-sized hail falling.
“Trees were flying everywhere toward the ground,” Aman said.
Aman’s home did not suffer any damage, nor did the home on Florence Street that he was working to clear of debris. But Mayor Gladys Dean said several homes in the town had been severely damaged by falling trees.
“It was a sudden affair,” Dean said. “Fast and furious.”
Dean said as the storm clouds rolled in Thursday, she called to a man she had working on her home that he should shut the windows in his car.
“Before he could even move, the rain started,” Dean said. “I thought for a second that I should go into my basement, but then the winds died down.”
Her power was knocked out by a couple of trees falling like dominoes onto the main line that connects her home to the transformer.
“The tree that was uprooted in my back yard fell onto another tree that fell across the wire and ripped the whole system off the side of my house,” Dean said. She was without power until approximately 1 p.m. on Friday.
Dean said that clean-up efforts were halted on Thursday night after the storm clouds cleared because of a city curfew.
“There were a lot of people out and we wanted to make sure everyone stayed safe with the power outages,” Dean said.
Dean said the town received tremendous support from other municipalities and from the energy companies serving the area, Progress Energy and Centurylink.
According to Jeff Brooks, spokesperson with Progress Energy, about 1,900 customers in the Maxton area lost power on Thursday because of lightening strikes and debris that hit power lines. Brooks said that most people’s power was restored within a few hours of the outage, but everyone should have had power by Friday morning.
Dean said that residents can pile the debris from their yards onto the curb and the city will pick it up. But she warned to keep the streets clear.
About 20 minutes southeast of Maxton, Pembroke showed few signs of the storm’s high winds — a few homes had debris in their yard. But at the end of Granford Road, Dorine Jones and her family were clearing fallen trees from their property.
The two- to three-acre lot is bordered by woods. One tree fell across a row of dog kennel cages, smashing the first three. The dogs were not injured, but Shawn Jones, Dorine’s son, believes it will cost him $700 to $800 to replace them.
Another tree, nearly 50 feet tall and 10 feet wide at the base of the truck, tumbled down, just missing the edge of the Jones’ home and shed.
“It’s amazing that it missed the shed,” Jones said. She said her street was the only one without power in Pembroke and other than one neighbor with a downed tree, she thought hers was the only property with damage from the storm.
Jones said she had so many trees down in her yard that she couldn’t count them.
“They were just ripped up,” Jones said. “These are old trees, not young ones. Just uprooted and now I have this big hole.”
The storm hit Pembroke around 4:30 p.m., according to Jones.
Ron Steve, a meteorologist with the weather service in Wilmington, said that winds measured more than 50 mph at the Maxton-Laurinburg Airport. But because of power outages in the area, some of the data from their equipment around the county was lost.
The storm reached as far north as Red Springs, according to Steve. The weather service received reports of downed trees on Archie McGougan Road, northwest of Red Springs.
The storm appeared to have dissipated by the time it rolled into Lumberton just after 5 p.m., Steve said. Wind speeds were around 30 mph with less than half an inch of rainfall.
On Friday afternoon, another large storm hit Fairmont and headed east of Lumberton. As of 6 p.m., however, no major damage had been reported.
— Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at (910) 272-6127 or [email protected]