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Severe Weather Knocks Down Trees, Leaves Tens Of Thousands Without Power

Dashiell Coleman

Skies are clearing now in the Charlotte area, but the National Weather Service says the region could see wind gusts of up to 40 mph through the afternoon.

But a pre-dawn storm toppled trees and caused widespread power outages across the Piedmont and western North Carolina. Much of the Charlotte metro area was briefly under a tornado watch, and about 25 counties in the central and eastern parts of the state remain under one until noon.

The state department of public safety said there were about 210,000 power outages in North Carolina at 8 a.m. Mecklenburg County had the most with about 46,000. There are also outages across South Carolina.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy says it’s working to restore power as soon as possible.

Although the rain is gone, high winds are continuing. While some repairs could be quick, others could take longer, says Duke Energy's Meghan Miles. 

"It is possible that some customers may have an extended outage that could last multiple days," Miles said. "So, we encourage customers to be prepared, get ice in coolers, if necessary to move food from their refrigerator into those coolers so it can remain cold."

Duke says workers cannot use bucket trucks until winds are consistently below 39 miles per hour.

Miles said Duke power crews also are practicing social distancing. Duke is asking customers to be careful approaching workers in the field, and to maintain at least a six-foot distance.

The storm caused the temporary closure of Interstate 85 in Gaston County and knocked down a tree that seriously injured a woman in Charlotte, according to WSOC-TV

The power outages come as millions across the Carolinas are under orders to stay at home when possible to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And it comes as many people have been stocking up on food to avoid going out. 

North Carolina emergency management officials say people with power outages should use coolers — even cheap styrofoam ones will work — and ice for their refrigerated foods. Freezers should keep food frozen for at least 24 hours. 

The storm system hit much of the South overnight Sunday and early Monday, and it's being blamed for at least 19 deaths, including one in South Carolina. 

In South Carolina, a person was found dead in a collapsed building near Seneca as an apparent tornado struck the city around 3:30 a.m. Monday, Oconee County Emergency Management Director Scott Krein said.

Several apparent tornadoes spun up in South Carolina, where dozens of homes appeared damaged in a line from Seneca to Clemson. Emergency officials were working to open shelters in the North Carolina mountains, where up to 5 inches of rain fell in a few hours.

The National Weather Service tallied hundreds of reports of trees down across the region, including many that punctured roofs and downed power lines. Meteorologists warned the mid-Atlantic states to prepare for potential tornadoes, wind and hail on Monday.

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