Storms across central North Carolina produced a tornado in Orange County on Friday afternoon and toppled trees in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, cutting power to several thousand residents, authorities said.
In Winston-Salem, an unidentified driver escaped injury when a tree fell on her car’s hood in the 2000 block of Reynolda Road, authorities said.
The driver stopped her car as the tree fell.
The incident happened in the same block of Reynolda as a fatal wreck that was caused by a tree five years ago. Justin Timothy Cardwell, 25, of Winston-Salem was killed in March 2014, when a pine tree uprooted by strong winds fell onto his car.
By 3:30 p.m. Friday, emergency dispatchers in the Winston-Salem Public Safety Center had reports of fallen trees and branches blocking roads and downing power lines, a spokeswoman said. No injuries were reported.
Fallen trees blocked Old Vineyard Road and Kilpatrick Street, the 400 block of Lindbergh Street, the 100 block of Piccadilly Lane, the 5000 block of Eastwin Drive and the 300 block of Glendare Court. Trees were also down in yards on Powers Road, Independence Road, Stonington Road and along the intersection of Yadkinville Road and Shattalon Drive.
The storm caused a tree to fall on the exit driveway at Jefferson Middle School at 3500 Sally Kirk Road and another to rest on power lines near the school.
Several trees also fell in Clemmons.
Duke Energy Corp. reported that 2,284 of its customers in Forsyth County were without power at 10 p.m. Friday.
In the western part of Winston-Salem, two trees fell on a building in the Glendare Apartment Home complex, off Village Crossing Lane. The building appeared to have minor damage.
Iuselis Parra, who lives nearby, said that her family moved their vehicles as rainstorms approached their neighborhood.
“We were lucky to put our cars out of the way,” she said.
About 1½ miles away, a police officer blocked the 4100 block of Old Vineyard Road, where a fallen tree blocked the lanes and brought down power lines.
Cristina Castillo said she was glad that the tree didn’t cause a widespread power outage in the neighborhood. Castillo said she and other residents would be temporarily inconvenienced because they often drive along that section of Old Vineyard Road.
About 2 miles from that location, a crew with Asplundh Tree Expert LLC of Lewisville worked to remove branches that had cut a power line along Stonington Road.
Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said the city keeps an inventory of all the trees that are in the public right of way but that trees are not removed unless they are determined to be diseased or weakened and in danger of falling.
It’s hard to tell when an otherwise healthy-looking tree might fall, Garrity said.
“I live in Sherwood Forest, and every year we have a big tree fall,” he said. “It’s a matter of how the wind blows and the rain.”
Today’s forecast for Winston-Salem indicates a 50% chance of rain, with a high temperature near 57 degrees. Wind speeds will range from 13 to 15 mph with gusts as high as 29 mph. Tonight’s low temperature will be around 43 degrees with a 50% chance of rain.
Elsewhere in North Carolina on Friday, a tornado appeared to have touched down near Exit 261 on Interstate 40 near Hillsborough, destroying a vacant house and shearing trees and power lines. A transformer was tossed into a rain-filled ditch, next to a white wicker chair and other indiscriminate debris gathered up by the storm.
UNC Chapel Hill urged everyone on campus to take shelter at the height of the storm. N.C. State University in Raleigh also issued a warning to its students about 5:15 p.m.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office received reports of damage from fallen trees, a spokesman said. In Hillsborough, Walmart customers said they were taken to the store’s break room during the height of the storm.
Sheila Riley and her mother, Linday Riley, were in the break room at WalMart with other customers for more than an hour as the tornado passed by.
“I’ve never been in the middle of that before; I’ve never heard a sound like that, but it wasn’t like a train,” Sheila Riley said.