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Trees torn up, power lines knocked down in storms

Severe thunderstorms raked parts of the Charlotte area Sunday afternoon, producing nickel-sized hail in some areas, leaving thousands without power and knocking over trees that crushed cars and homes.

More thunderstorms are expected today.

Much of the damage occurred in east and south Charlotte.

On Windham Place, wind uprooted a maple tree, plunging its 5-foot-wide trunk into the roof and bedrooms of a one-story brick home.

“Nobody was home – thank God – because there are two young children who live there,” said Dawn Castrain, who owns the home.

Around the corner on Dunlavin Way, Rocky Burchfield, who owns a tree removal service, surveyed a nearly 40-year-old oak tree that split and crashed on top of another one-story home.

“Whatever came through here twisted that tree like it was a rubber band,” he said.

A woman who is expecting her first child in two weeks was sitting inside with her husband and in-laws when the tree came crashing through the roof, according to WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner. The pregnant woman was OK, though her mother-in-law was so shaken up she had to be transported to Carolinas Medical Center, WCNC-TV reported.

A few houses down, a maple tree cracked in half, its branches snarling power lines and landing on a parked Ford F-150.

In Tega Cay, S.C., about 20 miles south of Charlotte, Nancy McDuffie and her family had just returned home from a beach trip and were checking on their swimming pool when they heard a loud “kaboom.”

“It was that sharp crack when lightning is very close,” McDuffie said. “It was shake-the-ground loud.”

The family made a frantic dash to the house, where even Smudge, the deaf cat, was visibly spooked, McDuffie said.

“We flew,” she said. “It was right on top of us.”

Moments later, the sound of sirens filled the neighborhood. Lightning had struck a home that fire officials said once belonged to onetime Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn. Flames and smoke climbed more than 60 feet into the air, McDuffie said.

The family that currently lives there was at the beach, McDuffie said, and their dog was staying with a friend.

Firefighters saved the family cat and hamster, McDuffie said.

Two major storms hit the Charlotte area, said Bryan McAvoy of the National Weather Service. The strongest storms began in western Lincoln and southern Catawba counties around 1:45 p.m. A tornado was reported two miles southwest of Newton in Catawba County at 2 p.m. But no damage was reported, and the National Weather Service had not confirmed the report.

The second severe storm, which developed over the Charlotte metropolitan area, began about 2:30 p.m. It brought nickel-sized hail and heavy rain to much of Mecklenburg County. Southern Mecklenburg saw more than 2 inches of rainfall, McAvoy said, and dozens of trees and power lines were knocked down.

At 10 p.m. Sunday, about 3,464 Duke Energy customers remained without power, more than 2,600 of them in Mecklenburg.

Despite the strong storms, there were only a few minor flooding reports; McAvoy credits the region's drought.

“It's been so dry, a lot of the stuff seemed to soak in,” he said. But “an event like this in a wet climate… we would have seen quite a bit of flooding.”

On Sunday afternoon, 42-year old Bryan Steele stood in shock on Clement Street just off Seventh Street, surveying his crushed 2008 Audi A4. A fallen tree completely covered the 6-month-old car.

“What can you say?” he asked, laughing in disbelief and throwing up his hands. “I got insurance.”

Seventy-two-year-old Ken Schulte, who was visiting friends for the Fourth of July weekend, said he felt a tremor inside his friend's townhome, then went outside to an unpleasant sight.

His 2001 Lincoln Town Car was struck by the same tree that hit Steele's Audi.

“Things happen,” he said. “Act of God. You can't do anything about it.”

Severe thunderstorms raked parts of the Charlotte area Sunday afternoon, producing nickel-sized hail in some areas, leaving thousands without power and knocking over trees that crushed cars and homes.

More thunderstorms are expected today.

Much of the damage occurred in east and south Charlotte.

On Windham Place, wind uprooted a maple tree, plunging its 5-foot-wide trunk into the roof and bedrooms of a one-story brick home.

“Nobody was home – thank God – because there are two young children who live there,” said Dawn Castrain, who owns the home.

Around the corner on Dunlavin Way, Rocky Burchfield, who owns a tree removal service, surveyed a nearly 40-year-old oak tree that split and crashed on top of another one-story home.

“Whatever came through here twisted that tree like it was a rubber band,” he said.

A woman who is expecting her first child in two weeks was sitting inside with her husband and in-laws when the tree came crashing through the roof, according to WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner. The pregnant woman was OK, though her mother-in-law was so shaken up she had to be transported to Carolinas Medical Center, WCNC-TV reported.

A few houses down, a maple tree cracked in half, its branches snarling power lines and landing on a parked Ford F-150.

In Tega Cay, S.C., about 20 miles south of Charlotte, Nancy McDuffie and her family had just returned home from a beach trip and were checking on their swimming pool when they heard a loud “kaboom.”

“It was that sharp crack when lightning is very close,” McDuffie said. “It was shake-the-ground loud.”

The family made a frantic dash to the house, where even Smudge, the deaf cat, was visibly spooked, McDuffie said.

“We flew,” she said. “It was right on top of us.”

Moments later, the sound of sirens filled the neighborhood. Lightning had struck a home that fire officials said once belonged to onetime Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn. Flames and smoke climbed more than 60 feet into the air, McDuffie said.

The family that currently lives there was at the beach, McDuffie said, and their dog was staying with a friend.

Firefighters saved the family cat and hamster, McDuffie said.

Two major storms hit the Charlotte area, said Bryan McAvoy of the National Weather Service. The strongest storms began in western Lincoln and southern Catawba counties around 1:45 p.m. A tornado was reported two miles southwest of Newton in Catawba County at 2 p.m. But no damage was reported, and the National Weather Service had not confirmed the report.

The second severe storm, which developed over the Charlotte metropolitan area, began about 2:30 p.m. It brought nickel-sized hail and heavy rain to much of Mecklenburg County. Southern Mecklenburg saw more than 2 inches of rainfall, McAvoy said, and dozens of trees and power lines were knocked down.

At 10 p.m. Sunday, about 3,464 Duke Energy customers remained without power, more than 2,600 of them in Mecklenburg.

Despite the strong storms, there were only a few minor flooding reports; McAvoy credits the region's drought.

“It's been so dry, a lot of the stuff seemed to soak in,” he said. But “an event like this in a wet climate… we would have seen quite a bit of flooding.”

On Sunday afternoon, 42-year old Bryan Steele stood in shock on Clement Street just off Seventh Street, surveying his crushed 2008 Audi A4. A fallen tree completely covered the 6-month-old car.

“What can you say?” he asked, laughing in disbelief and throwing up his hands. “I got insurance.”

Seventy-two-year-old Ken Schulte, who was visiting friends for the Fourth of July weekend, said he felt a tremor inside his friend's townhome, then went outside to an unpleasant sight.

His 2001 Lincoln Town Car was struck by the same tree that hit Steele's Audi.

“Things happen,” he said. “Act of God. You can't do anything about it.”

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