Residents, city crews work to recover from storms that left thousands without power

Nancy Ryder was cleaning her bathroom floor Saturday evening when she heard a loud bang that sounded like thunder.

Looking out her window, she realized the noise was a much scarier result of Saturday’s severe thunderstorms — her property’s 100-year-old tree had fallen across the busy intersection of Queens Road West and Selwyn Avenue, taking down traffic lights with it.

Ryder, who lives on Queens Road West, said strong winds took down the massive tree, which left her without power for several hours Saturday night but miraculously did not damage her house, neighboring homes or cars along the street.

“I feel like we dodged a bullet,” Ryder said.

Heavy winds from Saturday’s thunderstorms caused a tree to fall across the intersection of Selwyn Avenue and Queens Road West, blocking lanes and taking down traffic lights. Eva Ellenburg

Mecklenburg and 33 other counties were under a severe thunderstorm watch, issued by the National Weather Service, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Wind gusts reached up to 60 mph.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Meghan Miles said the storms left 30,000 customers in Mecklenburg County without power by 10 p.m. Saturday. The majority of those residents were in south Charlotte.

As of Monday afternoon, 2,500 customers were still without power, mostly in south Charlotte, Miles said. Power was expected to be restored to those residents by the end of Monday.

“A lot of the outages that remain are in hard-to-access areas that require special equipment to make repairs,” Miles said.

Brittany Clampitt, spokeswoman of the city of Charlotte, said new traffic signals at Queens Road West and Selwyn Avenue were being installed Monday by the city’s Department of Transportation. Part of Queens Road West was still blocked Monday morning, but Selwyn Avenue was open.

The city’s landscape management division received 125 requests for downed trees and limbs blocking roads, Clampitt said. Teams of city workers have prioritized clean-up on main roads and access points for hospitals, fire departments, police stations and emergency shelters.

A tree, owned by the city, fell after heavy thunderstorms Saturday evening along South Wendover Road. A resident’s car was crushed. Eva Ellenburg

All main roads have at least one lane open, and five secondary roads in Charlotte were completely blocked as of Monday afternoon, Clampitt said. Those secondary roads will remain partially or completely blocked for one to three more days.

Clampitt said south Charlotte and southeast Charlotte were the hardest hit areas, especially neighborhoods like Myers Park, SouthPark, Selwyn Park, Foxcroft and Barclay Downs.

Capt. Dennis Gist, spokesman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Department, said the department responded to 55 calls due to downed power lines and 26 calls due to fallen trees between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. No injuries were reported.

A fallen power line caused a fire in a tree along Crestdale Road in Matthews Saturday afternoon. Rob Kinniburgh, chief of Matthews Fire and EMS, said the department couldn’t extinguish the fire until Duke Energy turned off the power at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, about eight hours after it started. No one was injured, with only trees and sidewalks sustaining damage.

Kent Johnson, who lives on South Wendover Road, was working Monday to clear debris along the sidewalk near his home. Johnson said a tree trunk from his property, weighed down by heavy rain, fell Saturday evening and blocked two lanes of South Wendover Street near the intersection with Providence Road.

The city cleared the road by Saturday night, Johnson said, but no police came to direct traffic through the intersection, even though traffic lights were out and the tree debris obstructed the roads. He said he lost power from around 4 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday.

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Residents Ben Lipscomb and Kent Johnson cleaned up debris from trees at the intersection of Providence Road and Queens Road West. Eva Ellenburg

Johnson, who has lived in Charlotte for 40 years, said he doesn’t think Duke Energy responded to the outages quickly enough.

Charlotte experienced 600 outage events — such as fallen trees or power lines that left people in the dark — by Saturday at 10 p.m., which left repair crews with many locations to cover, Duke Energy’s Miles said. Additional workers were brought in from outside areas to assist in Charlotte.

Ryder said above all, she felt grateful no one got hurt.

“All the people in North Carolina that have lost everything that they own from floods — that could have been us,” she said.