The wind howled: Strong storms damage western part of county
by Michelle Babcock
May 16, 2014 04:00 AM | 2054 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kitty Ryan, right, helps her neighbor Charlie Cloud up her driveway in west Cherokee on Thursday. Ryan and Cloud live along White Road, which was hit with a severe isolated storm. With peak winds reaching 65 mph, trees, such as the one on the left, were uprooted.<br>Staff/C.B. Schmelter
Kitty Ryan, right, helps her neighbor Charlie Cloud up her driveway in west Cherokee on Thursday. Ryan and Cloud live along White Road, which was hit with a severe isolated storm. With peak winds reaching 65 mph, trees, such as the one on the left, were uprooted.
Staff/C.B. Schmelter
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Storm winds of up to 65 mph ripped a 4-mile path through west Cherokee on Wednesday night, leaving hundreds of downed trees and thousands of residents without power.

No injuries were reported from the storm that hit west Cherokee County just after 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, but about 2,000 people were left without power, said Robby Westbrook, director of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“The damage is confined to western Cherokee County along Upper Sweetwater, Rhine Road, Highway 20, White Road, Highway 108 and surrounding streets,” Westbrook said Wednesday in a storm damage survey report.

Nine homes and five vehicles were damaged by fallen trees, along with power lines and utility poles, Westbrook said.

“Hundreds of trees were downed along the damage path,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook said utility crews worked until about noon Thursday on Highway 108 to remove debris, replace broken power poles and restore electricity to residents in the area.

Highway 108 and some smaller roads, which were blocked by debris from the storm, were all reopened by mid-Thursday, Westbrook said.

Property owner Les Curd, 79, lives on White Road, one of the areas impacted by the high winds, and said he didn’t expect the storm to amount to much, until a loud noise suddenly picked up.

“It wasn’t the proverbial tornado freight train, but it was a noise of about that same loudness level,” Curd recalled. “It only lasted about 12 to 15 seconds … it was such a short amount of time.”

The storm left a 4-mile long, half-mile wide path of damage across west Cherokee, with straight-line winds reaching speeds of 60 to 65 mph, Westbrook reported.

Though Cherokee was issued a severe thunderstorm warning until 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Westbrook noted there were no active watches or warnings issued for the county when the damage occurred just after 10:30 p.m.

Curd’s home lost power in the storm and about a dozen large trees were downed or uprooted on his 3-acre property.

“We lost power immediately when the storm hit,” Curd said. “It sounded like things were falling and sliding across the side of the house. It turns out they weren’t, but that was the force of the wind. It blew the garage doors in.”

Though none of the downed trees fell on Curd’s home, his Mazda Miata was not spared. A big tree fell on his car, leaving a large branch lodged in the shattered windshield.

“The local fire department crew was amazing. They were working to clear my driveway so I could get out; almost in the middle of it, they were out there lickety-split looking for downed power lines and the like,” Curd said.

Curd said many of his neighbors were startled by the storm, and Curd said he’s still “shell-shocked” by the experience.

Curd said there have been a lot of “close calls” with storms in the area, but this is the first time his property was hit.

“We’ve had storms go by within a mile or two, maybe a half-dozen over a 20-year period,” Curd said. “There was a tornado that went through Arrowhead the year before last, and I could hear that and almost see it … I heard the classic freight train sound with that.”

The 79-year-old said he was still quite mobile and he and his neighbors would probably work together to clean up the mess.

“I’m expecting it to take some time,” Curd added.

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