Oct. 23 storm ravages Alexander, widespread damage & outages
Severe winds and a possible tornado passed through western Alexander County about 4:20 p.m. through 5:30 p.m. on Monday, October 23, 2017, leaving much damage in its wake and many families without electricity.
“We have had multiple reports of trees and power lines down and structures damaged. Emergency crews, along with DOT employees and private citizens, are still working at this time to clear roadways through several sections of the county,” said Russell Greene, Director of Alexander County Emergency Services, stated on October 23 about 10 p.m. “We have been fortunate in the fact that there have been no reported injuries. Red Cross has been contacted to assist one family due to special needs. Emergency crews will be out tomorrow conducting damage assessments. Upon completion of damage assessments another press release will be forthcoming.”
NOTE: The National Weather Service confirmed the storm was an EF2 tornado. Read more at this link: https://www.taylorsvilletimes.com/2017/10/26/ef2-tornado-confirmed-in-alexander-burke-catawba-and-caldwell/
Greene provided the following utility service phone numbers if residents are having problems: Duke Power: 1-800-POWER-ON, or Español: 1-866-4APAGON; EnergyUnited: 1-800-EUNITED;
NCDOT: 1-877-DOT-4YOU; Charter / Spectrum: 1-833-267-6094; and AT&T telephone: 1-800-288-2020.
“Please stay safe. We appreciate your patience,” said Greene.
He added that Emergency Services conducted a damage assessment on Tuesday and thus far have identified 95 structures with some degree of damage. Greene said crews plan to complete remaining section on Wednesday.
There were no casualties during the storm but that sadly changed Wednesday morning during debris clean-up efforts when a tree removal worker died (see more below).
He indicated that at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, about 5,200 customers remained without power in Alexander County.
Greene noted Tuesday that law enforcement and EMS reported no issues. He stated that a large amount of debris removal would need to be done.
A State of Emergency was declared by the Alexander County government following the storm. The formal declaration enables jurisdictions to seek state or federal aid if needed.
Alexander County Schools closed 2 days, then open with delay Oct. 26
Dr. Bill Griffin, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services for Alexander County Schools, broke the news each day that school would be closed for students on Tuesday, Oct. 24, and Wednesday, Oct. 25, with optional teacher workdays both days. Griffin announced that school would resume on a 2-hour delay on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Damage reports from readers
T’neal Howell Herman told The Times that Herman Dairy Farm had severe structure damage to a dairy barn, which claimed several cattle.
At Chapman Jersey Farm, located off of Three Forks Church Road in the Sugar Loaf Community, the Oct. 23 storm tore a tractor shed completely apart and flipped its roof onto another barn, damaging the second barn as well. No cattle were killed at the Chapman farm.
High winds ripped the roof off the home of Richie and Teresa Herman in the Ellendale Community, stated Allison Brown who also resides in Ellendale.
A tree fell onto a truck owned by the Holsclaw family, flattening the cab of the vehicle, in the Arbor Springs subdivision in Bethlehem, stated Amy Wallace Holsclaw.
Jeff Propst commented, at a debris clean-up site on Oxford School Road, that he was in Hickory during the storm and saw “trees falling like dominoes.”
Photos by Herman, Chapman, and many other readers were sent to The Times’ via Facebook. There were numerous other reports of yard, tree, and minor home damage across western Alexander.
Asplundh worker killed Oct. 25 while cutting tree in Ellendale
A Wilkes County man, working in Alexander County to remove trees from power lines, was killed Wednesday morning, October 25.
Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman told The Times that at approximately 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, the Alexander County 911 Center received a call that a tree had fallen on an individual near the intersection of Dover Church Road and Mountain Ridge Church Road, in the Ellendale Community.
Ellendale Volunteer Fire Department First Responders, Alexander Rescue Squad, Alexander County EMS, Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, and Alexander County Emergency Management responded to the scene of the incident. Upon arrival at the incident, emergency personnel found Brian Keith Wilmoth, a white male, age 31, of Wilkes County. Mr. Wilmoth, an employee of Asplundh Company, was pronounced deceased at the scene, said Sheriff Bowman.
The initial investigation shows that Wilmoth was operating a chainsaw and cutting a tree that had fallen on a power line. As Wilmoth cut the tree in two, the power lines sprang upward, throwing the tree back onto Mr. Wilmoth.
The investigation is continuing.
The American Red Cross Blue Ridge Piedmont Chapter had sheltering operations in Caldwell, Wilkes, and Watauga counties for residents displaced by the storm. These were closed by Wednesday morning as anyone who stayed in one of the shelters had returned home or found alternative housing.
In addition, disaster trained volunteers are on the ground responding to calls for assistance in Alexander, Burke, Catawba, and Lincoln counties. They are providing comfort, clean-up kits, with items such as tarps, water and work gloves, and health or mental health assistance to help residents begin recovery. Damage assessment has begun in the Granite Falls area of Caldwell County.
As residents clean up, the Red Cross encourages people to remember the following safety tips:
What To Do Afterward
• Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
• If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
• Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
• Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
• Stay out of damaged buildings.
• Use battery-powered flashlights when examining buildings – do NOT use candles.
• If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.
• Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
• Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
• Keep all your animals under your direct control.
• Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
• Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.
How To Help
To make a financial donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters, big and small.
To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.
To donate blood, visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive or location near you.