Tropical Storm Zeta crashed through Burke County with stout winds and heavy rain, leaving thousands without power, many trees downed and limbs and leaves scattered on roads and in yards.
Near midday Thursday, Duke Energy reported 199,000 power outages across the Carolinas, including more than 6,000 in Burke and more than 23,000 in Catawba County.
The city of Morganton said it had “widespread” outages, though about 1,300 customers saw that service restored by late morning. That included some spots downtown such as The News Herald’s office, which had power restored around 11 a.m., and multiple traffic lights on West Union Street.
The town of Valdese also said its outages included the local Food Lion grocery store.
Burke County’s Davis weather stations, situated at 13 spots around the county, told the tale of high winds and heavy downpours that led to those outages. The Jonas Ridge EMS base registered the highest storm rainfall total at 3.26 inches, while West End Fire Department’s Station 1 saw 3.09 inches of rain. All but two of the 13 stations reported more than 2 inches of rain.
South Mountains Fire and Rescue was at the low end of the rain scale with 1.64 inches, but recorded the highest wind speed of the day at 56 mph with 10-minute wind gusts of 46 mph. George Hildebran Fire and Rescue’s station recorded 53 mph winds and Triple Community Fire Department and Brendletown Fire and Rescue both saw 52 mph high winds.
N.C. Highway 18 was shut down Thursday afternoon between Grace Ridge Retirement Community in Morganton and Antioch Road near the Caldwell County line for flooding of the Johns River. Scanner traffic indicated a tree had fallen, collecting power lines and blocking Miller Bridge Road, in Connelly Springs.
Burke County EMS said it had an additional crew on duty Thursday, along with an additional supervisor on the clock in the eastern part of the county as downed trees were limiting access to some areas. EMS said the N.C. Department of Transportation and local fire departments were working to clear trees from roads and power lines, going from one call to the next.
Those reports of downed trees in the region were widespread, including one at a house at 5020 Jenkins Road in Morganton, where a tree fell on a carport, causing it to collapse on the car underneath, and leaving the top part of the tree lying across the roof of the house.
“It sounded like a big, old truck,” said Nancy Dale, who lives at the house. “I said, ‘Something’s wrong.’”
In McDowell County, the emergency management department shared photographs on Facebook of significant flooding along Sugar Hill Road. Caldwell County also reported flooded roads, along with others blocked by downed trees and power lines. In Catawba County, a state of emergency was declared as trees and power lines had fallen across the county.
Ahead of the storm Wednesday evening, Burke County Public Schools made the call to turn Thursday’s instruction into a remote-only learning day for students and staffers.
After numerous weather advisories were issued Wednesday for Burke County by the National Weather Service, a flash flood warning that was put in effect Thursday morning was allowed to expire at 1:45 p.m. Thursday. A flood advisory that was issued Thursday morning expired at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
A tropical storm warning issued for the area ahead of Zeta’s arrival remained in place “until further notice” as of midday Thursday.
With the tropical cyclone cleared out of the area, the weather service forecasts much clearer and cooler weather for the Burke County area going forward following a partly cloudy Thursday night.
Friday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 61 degrees, followed Friday night by patchy frost before 2 a.m. with a low around 36 degrees. On Saturday, there will be patchy frost before 9 a.m., followed by mostly sunny conditions and a high of 57 degrees. Saturday night is forecast as partly cloudy with a low of 40 degrees.
Sunday will cap off the weekend forecast with mostly sunny skies and a high temperature near 66 degrees, before Sunday night brings clear skies and a low around 32 degrees.