May 25, 2000 - 09:42
Storms Across South, Plains Trigger Floods, Evacuations
Rough storms stomped through parts of the South and the Plains on Thursday, upending trailers, toppling trees, and causing flash flooding and power outages for hundreds of thousands of people. One man was killed and dozens of people were forced to evacuate their homes.
The power outages affected more than 175,000 electric customers in North Carolina, where wind gusts as high as 82 mph were reported. Two men were injured when the storm forced their small plane to crash in a parking lot near an airport in Chapel Hill. Witnesses said wind blew the small aircraft sideways as it was landing.
The storms had earlier moved through Tennessee with hail, heavy rains and 60 mph to 70 mph winds. Part of a roof collapsed on a rescue squad building with emergency vehicles.
Middle Tennessee took the brunt of the storms, with 2.4 inches of rain falling in a half-hour at the Nashville airport and 3.8 inches overall. Outlying areas reported up to 6 inches of rain. High water forced 38 residents to evacuate an assisted living center near Franklin, south of Nashville.
A 35-year-old Nashville man died after his car hydroplaned in heavy rain on Interstate 24 and his car was struck by two tractor-trailers.
A toddler escaped serious injury after being trapped for 90 minutes under an uprooted oak tree that crashed into her bedroom while she slept. Adrianna Sandlen, 23 months, was hospitalized with scrapes and bruises.
"I wished I was a mighty woman so I could pick that tree up and save my daughter," Tina Sandlen told WKRN-TV.
About 15,000 homes in the Nashville area were still without power Thursday afternoon, down from 50,000 earlier in the day, said Nashville Electric Service spokeswoman Teresa Corlew.
In Hickman County, southeast of Nashville, trailers were overturned and trees twisted.
"It happened so fast," resident Mark Scarborough said. "It's almost like it dropped out of the sky right on top of us."
In North Carolina, crews began repairing power outages in the hours following the storm, but the severe damage in Greensboro, Burlington and the Raleigh-Durham area could take a while to repair.
"With so many broken (utility) poles, it's estimated the time to restore power to be in days rather than hours," said Duke Power spokeswoman Rosalind Bennett.
The outages caused millions of gallons of wastewater to overflow from treatment plants into tributaries of the Haw River, said Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Water Quality.
Storms early Thursday also brought high wind, tornadoes and lightning to Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Lightning caused an oil tank battery to explode about 50 miles east of Oklahoma City in Okfuskee County, sheriff's dispatcher Shawn Lane said. He said a tornado hit near Okmulgee but caused no damage.
At Calico Rock, Ark., the upper layer of the roof of a state prison was damaged. Fifty-four inmates were moved to the unit's gymnasium until repairs were completed, and security was not compromised, officials said.
Thursday night, another line of storms moving through Utah spawn a tornado that ripped roofs of a block of stores in a suburb of Salt Lake City. The storm was apparently on the ground for a short period of time in the Holladay area, according to Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service.
"Things started to shake and we all dived under cars and it went over us and my customers got real scared," said Merle Smith, a salesman at a Goodyear Auto Tire Center, where part of the roof was torn off by the tornado and several car windows were blown out.
McInerney said the storm knocked out power to the area.