March is living up to its reputation today as crews across Surry County are addressing damages caused by high winds since late Wednesday afternoon, which included several thousand power outages at the storm’s peak Wednesday night.
“There were 70 events that were run that are wind-related, and grass fires,” Surry Emergency Services Director John Shelton said of the incident total that had accumulated as of late this morning.
“We even had an illegal burn during all this, believe it or not,” Shelton added. No weather-related injuries have been reported.
While Shelton’s total reflected the full gamut, a spokesman at the Surry County Communications/Operations Center, where emergency calls are processed, said 63 of the incidents cited by Shelton involved direct damage from the winds including downed trees and snapped utility poles.
That spanned the period from 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to late this morning. “And we are still getting a few,” he said then of the wind-related calls.
This resulted from gusting winds in the 40 mph range, according to the National Weather Service, which left a trail of destruction.
Fire crews around the county responded to trees blocking roadways, which also required the efforts of Duke Energy personnel, along with members of the N.C. Forest Service whose help was requested by the county and state Department of Transportation crews.
“We had a lot of ingress and egress problems…due to the trees falling,” Shelton said, which blocked roadways. “Most of the problems over the night were keeping ingress and egress open.”
Shelton added, “it wasn’t just one community — it was widespread all over the county.”
Electrical poles snapping and the downed lines were accompanied by scattered power outages. “I’m sure there were several thousand last night to begin with,” the emergency services official said of the storm’s peak. This led to generators being employed in some locations.
As of late this morning, 603 Duke Energy customers were still without service, along with about 10 of Surry-Yadkin Membership Corp. Duke Energy was addressing 65 different sectors of repair around the county today.
One problem area was along South South Street in Mount Airy where a utility pole snapped at its base.
In some cases, there have been complications with lines downed by trees or broken poles, Shelton said. Fire department personnel initially responding to cases where live wires resulted have had to sit back and wait for a Duke Energy crew to arrive and cut off the juice before trees could be removed, he said.
This has meant roads being blocked longer.
Along with the restoration of electrical power, one of the big issues today involves determining which entity, such as the DOT or another, has responsibility for disposing of the downed timber. Shelton said the immediate task for crews was to clear the roadways, which simply meant moving the trees to the side until they could be dealt with fully.
Area businesses did not escape the windy onslaught, including at West Pine Kitchen in Mount Airy, where a large roadside sign blew down. It had been installed in 1968
“It actually picked the sign up and out of the post,” restaurant owner Jerry Hicks said. “How it did it, I don’t know.”
Hicks put the damage at $3,000 to $5,000. “They’re definitely expensive,” he said of such signs.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.