Tornado struck at least 2 western NC counties, National Weather Service confirms

Damage at Chimney Rock State Park from the storm.
Damage at Chimney Rock State Park from the storm.

A tornado struck at least two western North Carolina counties on Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday.

An EF1 tornado tracked from extreme southeast Rutherford County, roughly along the Highway 221A corridor, into western Cleveland County, according to a damage assessment team from the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.

EF1 tornadoes have winds between 86 to 110 mph, according to the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale, which rates tornadoes based on their wind speeds and resulting damage on a scale of EF0 to EF5.

EF1 tornadoes cause moderate damage, including to roofs. Such storms also can push mobile homes off their foundations and cars off roads.

Chimney Rock State Park, about 95 miles west of Charlotte, was closed until further notice after a retaining wall at the top parking lot collapsed during Monday’s heavy rains. Some of the debris washed onto the road below, and crews were trying to clear the road on Tuesday. N.C. Department of Transportation officials and contractors were assessing the damage to determine what needs to be done to restore the wall. Visit chimneyrockpark.com for updates.

The NWS team continued to survey damage along the path of the storm in Burke, Catawba, Alexander and Caldwell counties. A final assessment, including results of the survey, was expected to be completed by late Tuesday or Wednesday morning.

EF2 tornadoes were confirmed in the S.C. counties of Cherokee and Spartanburg. An EF1 tornado also was confirmed in Spartanburg County.

A person was hospitalized with burst ear drums due to the extreme change in air pressure during the EF2 tornado in Spartanburg, NWS officials said. The person sought shelter in a glass booth under a metal awning.

Earlier Tuesday, Catawba County and the town of Hickory declared a state of emergency as they tried to recover from the storms.

“A significant amount of damage is scattered throughout the city,” Hickory said in a statement. “Multiple public facilities, as well as private businesses and residences will require substantial clean-up and repairs. Current conditions are still quite dangerous, with fallen power lines, fallen trees, and debris in the roadways.”

Hickory is 60 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Some Hickory residents were displaced from their homes, though an exact count was not available later Tuesday.

Catawba County officials said the declaration of emergency would allow emergency services to implement a more coordinated response to the recovery effort.

The city’s worst-hit areas were around Hickory Regional Airport and neighborhoods to the northwest.

Numerous local agencies, including Hickory’s police, fire and public services departments, helped assess damage and clean up from the storms, officials said.

Two hangars at the Hickory Regional Airport were damaged during the afternoon storms, but the airport remained open. The worst of the damage was on the north ramp of the airport.

Among the damage incidents reported in the region:

▪ The Caldwell County community of Grace Chapel area reportedly had 121 homes damaged, according to the Hickory Daily Record.

▪ Flash flooding in Boone caused major damage to units in at least three apartment complexes along Cedar Creek near Meadowview. The area is between the Boone Mall and Walmart shopping areas. Dozens of cars at the units and at Walmart were inundated. Town officials temporarily ordered people in flooded apartments to get out. At least 60 were involved, with most of those affected being students at Appalachian State University.

▪ Surveyors with the National Weather Service were trying to determine if a tornado damaged at least 15 homes in Caldwell County, according to TV station WSOC.

▪ The storm ripped the roof off the Lawndale post office in Cleveland County, according to WSOC. The heavy winds scattered parts of the roof throughout the parking lot and on top of cars.