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Meteorologist: ‘comfortable’ that gusts reached 40-50 mph

Posted on: 10.24.2017 at 04:55 p.m.

Cleanup is continuing after Monday night’s storm that smashed tress and knocked out power to more than 1,800 people.

Meteorologist Chris Cawley said that before he lost power at his weather station on College Street in Whiteville, he measured a 36-mile per hour gust at 10:19 p.m.

“I would feel quite comfortable estimating wind gusts at least in the 40-50 mile per hour range just by looking at damage downtown,” he said.

A home on West Columbus Street was destroyed, according to Whiteville Fire Marshal Hal Lowder Jr., but the resident wasn’t home at the time.

“We’re working on getting some Red Cross assistance for her,” he said. “She doesn’t have a bed to sleep in.”

A main supply line along Franklin Street was snapped by a falling tree, and another large tree blocked an intersection on Thompson, Lowder said. A number of other large trees were broken, split or otherwise damaged in several areas of the city. Some damage was reported in other municipalities, but Whiteville and Hallsboro appeared to receive the brunt of the storm.

In Cerro Gordo, a main electric line was snapped just after sunset, forcing firefighters to block area streets and detour traffic while repairs were underway.

“I have never seen a broken wire burning so hot and bright,” said Marc Hill, a former firefighter and resident of the town.

Repair crews with Brunswick Electric Membership and Four County, along with Duke Progress contract crews with Mastec, began working shortly before midnight. While the coops reported 100 percent of their outages repaired by dawn, Duke workers were still struggling to get power to some areas around Whiteville at 3 p.m.

One of the Mastec workers, who said he lives in Tabor City, said he had to move debris from his driveway when he left home at midnight. The crews worked without a break through Tuesday morning.

“It was rough last night,” he said.

Nina Wright of Hallsboro was one of the last Duke Progress customers to receive power, and she said it’s a common problem along Dismal and Pierce Cemetery roads.

“The lines through here are old,” she said. “We’re always the first to lose power, and the last to get it back.”

Wright said she and her husband didn’t expect the storm to be dangerous, based on weather reports.

“We know by now to be prepared,” she said.

After visiting a family member at a Bladenboro nursing home, Wright said, the couple returned home to no power and a rapidly warming freezer and a refrigerator full of soon-to-be-spoiled food. More than 18 hours after power was lost around 10 p.m., 341 homes were still without power in Hallsboro, along with another 100 in Whiteville.

“We have neighbors who are older and on a fixed income,” Wright said. “They can’t afford to go out and replace everything when the wind blows. And they have the nerve at Duke to ask for a 17 percent rate increase?

“I feel like if they are going to take our money, they need to provide a service. That’s how it works. The cooperatives do much better than Duke, any time there is a storm.”

Elsewhere in the area, a tornado warning was briefly issued for the town of Brunswick at the height of the storm. The NWS reported that conditions were favorable to tornadic development as a cell crossed over from South Carolina and went through the southeastern part of the county.

Mike Ross of the Wilmington NWS office said straight line winds caused the damage in Whiteville and throughout the county. A tornado was confirmed to have touched down in Conway, S.C., as another cell clipped the corner of Columbus, then threatened Brunswick County, New Hanover and southern Pender. Rainfall amounts from unofficial gauges ranged from one to four inches.

See Thursday’s NR for more on this continuing story, and share your photos and videos with us on Facebook.

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