Gov. Roy Cooper tours storm damage in Hillsborough, NC
The powerful storms that swept across North Carolina on Friday spawned at least one confirmed tornado that touched down outside Siler City, and another possible twister that ripped through the Maple View Farm outside Hillsborough, prompting a Saturday visit from Gov. Roy Cooper.
The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday a tornado had touched down in northwest Chatham County, damaging trees, power lines and rooftops.
The tornado was classified as EF-1, meaning winds reach speeds as high as 110 mph. No major injuries were reported from the storm. The National Weather Service said it issued 31 warnings for tornadoes and 17 more for severe thunderstorms.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, the National Weather Service said an EF-0 tornado, or a tornado causing light damage, hit Gaston County Friday afternoon and traveled northeast into Lincoln County, The Charlotte Observer reported. An additional tornado also touched down in Alexander County, the Observer reported.
In Orange County, Cooper toured the Hillsborough farm where roughly 350 cows provide milk for its butter pecan, double chocolate and various other flavors of ice cream. The storm tore across the farm and its neighboring agriculture center, seriously damaging two barns and wounding a cow.
“This is an iconic place that everyone knows about,” Cooper said. “I think everyone is just glad the ice cream was spared.”
Cooper said it was remarkable that no one was hurt and that the decisions made Friday by officials and meteorologists, as far as warning residents and closing schools early, were good ones.
“We have to respect the weather,” Cooper said. “We have to take steps to make sure people don’t get hurt.
“All in all, people feel relieved and are grateful that things worked well,” Cooper said.
Roger Nutter, one of the farm’s owners, showed the governor a barn where several cows were calving in pens Friday when the storm ripped off the roof and tossed it into a pile 100 feet away.
“This barn here is right over there now,” Nutter said. The wounded cow, described as badly hurt, was found wrapped up in wire.
Herd manager Bob Jackson showed Cooper how he hid inside a small room with plywood walls while the storm tore the siding off two sides of another barn.
“I heard the wind and I took cover,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it.”
Twisted metal and broken wood lay strewn across the farm Saturday. Jackson said insurance will likely cover most of the damage, but he felt amazed more animals weren’t hurt. He and Nutter said 25 to 30 volunteers arrived Saturday morning to help with cleanup.
Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator Kirby Saunders said residents reported damage in 22 places, most of them along a line heading northeast across the county. Many of them were damaged by trees, but only one unoccupied home was destroyed.
Meteorologists at ABC11 were waiting on word from the weather service Saturday on whether tornadoes were confirmed elsewhere. ABC11 meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker said spotters reported six twisters in the area Friday night.
The Triangle had not faced such a severe weather risk in three years, Schwenneker said.
“It was an extremely unusual day,” he said Saturday.
Homes along Old 86, south of Interstate 40 in Orange County, showed rooftops torn off and timber strewn across yards.
In Raleigh, the train and paddle boats at Pullen Park will not operate Saturday because of fallen trees across the park, according to the city.