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Picking up the pieces

Community ravaged by freak storm still recovering

Lincolnton residents, local businesses, and city workers continued the process of repairing home damage, restoring power lines and clearing tree limbs and other debris scattered throughout the area after a fierce line of straight-line winds tore through the area late Sunday afternoon and evening.

Much of the area’s damage was detected in the northern part of the city and caused thousands of residents to lose power after lines and power poles were knocked over by the storm’s brute force.

The scene Monday morning resembled a war-torn village or area ravaged by tornadoes. However, no tornadoes were reported Sunday and no major injury reports were received at Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services, authorities said.

A homeowner on Alexander Street, who wished to remain unnamed, was in the process of cleaning up his property Tuesday morning when the Times-News visited his residence.

This week, his home has been the site of numerous local news crews who have been trying to catch a peek of the ravaged property and white house where he and his wife have lived for nearly three decades, he said.

The couple was at home watching TV with their 7-year-old granddaughter when they heard the loud roar of one of the towering oak trees in their yard fall onto the house.

“It sounded like a freight train,” he said.

Despite the devastated look of his front yard, the Lincolnton resident has remained positive.

“I’m just thankful no one got hurt,” he said.

He also has future plans to prevent a similar catastrophe by giving his property somewhat of a home makeover.

“I’m gonna cut ‘em all down after this gets cleaned up,” he said of the many tall trees dotting his land.

Although his house is more than a century-old, built in 1901, he has been more concerned about the safety and well-being of his family than repairing his property.

He revealed that even though his granddaughter is “a little nervous right now” after experiencing the storm, she’s been a “tough cookie.”

Sunday’s events were the first time a storm has taken such a direct hit to his home, he said.

“I lived here in Hugo, and it only took down a pecan tree,” he noted.

An inspector visited the home Tuesday to take pictures of the property, but no dollar figures have been determined yet for the many necessary repairs, he said.

The tree tore two large holes in the roof, caving in the ceiling and dumping water into the inside of the house. Although the fire marshal told the couple they should evacuate their home on account of the significant damage it sustained, the man told the Times-News that he has no intentions of leaving his residence.

Since Monday, city cleaning crews have been working on cleaning up the property while power crews have been on-hand at other locations along Alexander Street, working on power lines and even lifting a power pole that had been knocked down during the storm, a city worker said.

In addition, the U.S. Post Office building in downtown Lincolnton reopened Monday afternoon after postal officials closed the office earlier that morning due to a large oak tree that had fallen on the roof.

Authorities expected no delays in street deliveries, only P.O. Box mail distribution.

Less significant damage could still be spotted in other areas of the city Tuesday afternoon, including McBee Street Park beside the Lincoln Counseling Center in Lincolnton. The playground was roped off due to a large oak tree that had been uprooted on the park grounds.

In addition, small-scale damage remained visible at Lincolnton High School, both at the press box, where part of the siding was torn off, and various athletic fields on the property.

The storm brought the most significant damage the school has seen in nearly 30 years, said Scott Cloninger, teacher, head football coach and athletic director at the high school.

“That’s probably the most damage we’ve had,” he said. “Every once in a while we’ll get a tree down.”

Cloninger also commented on the high number of intense storms that have come through the area this year, particularly this past season.

“It’s been a unique fall,” he noted.

He and several other coaches were inside the weight room reviewing video football footage when the storm hit.

“We heard one of the trees fall,” Cloninger said. “It just barely missed one of the coaches’ cars.”

Rain also poured into the weight room Sunday evening.

In addition, two lights at the tennis courts were knocked over, and at least a dozen trees fell along areas on the football practice field and stadium, damaging the outer fence, Cloninger revealed.

Trees even continued falling Monday afternoon during football practice, he said.

Although Cloninger was not sure on the exact amount of storm damage the school sustained this past weekend, he anticipated school officials would be gathering cost information in the near future.

In addition, the driveway to the Lincoln County Building and Land Development office, located at the corner of North Academy and Pine Street, remained shut down Tuesday after a tree fell across the property, damaging the heating and air-conditioning unit, according to county maintenance worker Terry Putnam.

Putnam noted that the damage would more than likely cost around $2,000.

A back window was also blown in at the county business, he said. However, he believed that the incident was caused from heavy winds and not the tree.

Putnam said he didn’t have to respond to many significantly damaged areas around town following the storm but did note how much water damage was done throughout the city.

“Just roof leaks,” he said. “You’re gonna get that with storms.”

Due to the heavy amount of residential damage done by the storm, one resident noted how scam artists have been visiting her State Street home on multiple occasions this week.

Robin Johnson said two men claiming to be from a Lake Wylie roofing company, along with men claiming to be from a similar business in Charlotte have knocked on her door three times between Monday and Tuesday, asking if she needed any home repairs.

Even after telling one man that she had her roof re-done two weeks ago, they persisted, she said.

“He said, ‘Yeah, right,’ ” Johnson noted. She hoped to get the word out about her recent run-ins with so-called roofing companies in order to warn others who may accidentally fall for a scam.

“A lot of people might think they are getting a good deal,” she said.

Although thousands of area residents lost power earlier this week, city officials are confident that only a handful of homes, if any, remain without power.

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Seth Mabry

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