At least one tornado touched down as warnings were issued for Person, Durham and Orange counties on Friday afternoon
ABC11 meteorologists said a confirmed tornado touched down in Orange County near Mebane. Kirby Saunders, director of Orange County emergency services, said homes were damaged in Mebane and part of a wall was torn off at the Gildan Mebane Distribution Center on East Washington Street.
Orange County officials later said three buildings were damaged in Mebane by high winds.
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The county was unable to confirm whether the damage was caused by a tornado, but Saunders said multiple 911 callers reported seeing a funnel cloud.
In addition to a 911 call about a potential tornado at 5:18 p.m. from the Gildan Distribution Center, the county received several other calls, including from residences on Frazier Road and Mace Road who reported damage, including fallen trees. and downed power lines.
Saunders said 30 employees were inside the distribution center, which employs 150 people when the storm hit and ripped large chunks of an exterior wall. No injuries were reported.
The second shift supervisor at Gildan said he got everyone out when he started smelling gasoline.
“All of a sudden, out of the blue, it was just a strong wind that got stronger and stronger and the next thing I knew,” said the manager, who didn’t want to be identified. “It was a very scary feeling. I’m not going to lie.
“There was spraying. There was no thunder or lightning and all of a sudden the wind came – you could hear it,” he added. “Five to 10 seconds of really hard blowing and then it was gone. When I heard it I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know where. And there’s nowhere to go – Thank goodness he hit the front of the building.”
Rick Regan, the operations manager, said he had just returned home.
The distribution center is expected to close in the coming months and move operations to Charleston. Maintenance had come to turn off the gas
“We were lucky in that aspect that they weren’t working on that side,” Regan said.
Scottie Torain said he heard the wind and saw the trees bend. A tree fell on his house.
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“I lost a tree here, which was on top of my neighbor, but it fell this way instead of going the other way,” Torain said. “If it went the other way, it would have taken his house.”
Crews were assessing the damage to homes, and Saunders said the county will work with any residents who may be displaced and need emergency housing assistance.
Saunders said the storm also damaged several natural gas lines. Utility crews were working to secure these lines.
Also in Orange County, the Highway Patrol said a state trooper was shocked by downed power lines on Fraiser Road. The soldier was working to clear downed trees and power lines when he came into contact with a live wire.
The soldier was taken to hospital and described as stable.
Friday’s severe weather risk was rated at Level 3 out of 5, which included a possibility of isolated tornadoes.
There are also reports of trees in the area. Cary crews were working to clear one which fell on Yates Mill Road on Friday afternoon.
Another tree landed on a house in Wake Forest.
Heavy rain also fell outside the general aviation terminal at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around mid-afternoon.
The National Weather Service reported half-dollar hail and wind gusts of 60 mph near RDU just before 4 p.m. More than 100 flights were delayed Friday by the weather.
In Fayetteville, officers responded to Skibo Road at Freedom Parkway Drive in reference to a power line that broke during the storm. Power lines are down across the road creating a hazard.
Skibo Road is closed between Cliffdale Road and Chason Ridge Drive while repairs are carried out, police said.
Drivers are advised to use an alternate route.
Also in Fayetteville, PWC crews responded to multiple outages following the destructive storms. About 13,000 customers were without power around 9 p.m., with North Fayetteville along the Ramsey Street corridor reporting the highest number of outages.
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By late Friday evening, power had been restored to more than 12,000 customers. By 10:36 p.m., crews had restored power to the majority of customers along the Ramsey Street corridor. About 800 customers remain without electricity.
Police also said Ramsey Street, from Kings Creek Drive to Shawcroft Road, had been closed in both directions as crews worked to repair damaged poles and restore power.
This storm front that moved through the region already generated several tornadoes which passed through parts of Texas and Oklahoma.
Durham Public Schools closed early Friday due to the risk of severe weather. Johnston County Schools and the Wake County Public School System have both canceled all extracurricular activities with great caution. Find area school closures here.
Isolated storms began to develop ahead of the main line of storms. This main line was expected to enter the area around 7 or 8 p.m.
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The risk of severe weather will persist until about 11 p.m. Isolated showers could still occur on Saturday night.
Saturday morning will be mostly dry. Isolated but not severe thunderstorms could erupt Saturday afternoon. Temperatures will be cooler on Saturday – reaching just the low to mid-70s.
Mother’s Day Sunday will be mostly dry, cloudy and cooler. High temperatures on Sunday may not even reach the 60s.
— ABC11’s Josh Chapin contributed to this report.
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