Chair City begins massive cleanup
Vicki Simmons stood out in front of her home on Kenreed Drive and tried to stay positive.
Chainsaws growled in the background as Simmons gave thanks that downed trees from Friday's ice storm spared not just her home but her life.
“Around 4 a.m Friday morning I heard the tree in the back fall and brush against my bedroom,” Simmons said. “The invisible hand of God kept it from hitting my bedroom. Another missed the house and it missed me. It's a very thankful feeling for me to have lived through it because I had two very close calls in a matter of two hours with the trees falling.”
Simmons was one of many Chair City residents who spent a beautiful Monday afternoon cleaning up after Friday's horrific ice storm that left thousands of people across Davidson County in the dark.
Councilman Raleigh York said a limb crashed through the roof on his Forest Drive home in the Fair Grove community and pierced the ceiling in a closet.
“It was a first,” York said. “We were sitting in the house and the weather was extremely bad. We had two grandsons with us and all of a sudden the house shook. I’ve got three holes in my roof, but the one limb came probably five feet down in the attic and penetrated that ceiling in the closet. It wasn’t that big but it packed a punch. Our neighbor wasn’t as fortunate. They had a whole tree fall on their house.”
Crews from several neighboring states including Kentucky, Virginia and South Carolina joined Duke Energy's effort to restore electricity to several dark pockets throughout Thomasville.
Simmons lives at 804 Kenreed Drive and was hoping to have her power back on by Tuesday. A few of her neighbors were back online Monday afternoon, but not everyone.
City Hall and Thomasville Police Department got power back at approximately 1 p.m. Monday.
“We're in recovery mode,” said City Manager Kelly Craver. “We've still got a number of residents without power. It certainly is a substantial event and will take quite a bit of effort to get all this debris cleared up once people have the opportunity to get in their yards and get it to the streets.”
Duke Energy on Friday reported that 32,822 of their 33,095 customers in Davidson County were without power. On Monday, the number had dwindled to 8,971.
“Duke Energy still has trees on lines and other things to deal with as well,” Craver said. “We've still got folks close to the downtown area without power. We've still a got a number of people to go. There are some pockets off Fisher Ferry and west of downtown still in the dark.”
Jane Baity still was without power at her Lake Drive West home on Monday afternoon. Baity said a tree in her front yard toppled across National Highway early Friday morning, blocking traffic for several hours. A limb also fell on her house, puncturing a hole in the roof of her den. Baity thanked the effort of a neighbor for preventing even more damage from a leaky roof.
“Our good neighbor came over and put a tarp over it,” said Baity. “He came over, even in the rain with the ice still falling off the trees.”
James Shetley, owner of JEC Tree Services, said his phone has been ringing off the hook since the ice storm hit. Shetley is trying to help as many people as he can but with so many calls coming in, he's had to prioritize who he can service.
“It's incredible,” Shetley said. “We had 150 calls on Friday and 135 on Saturday. You can't get to all of them, you just do the best you can. I try to strive to get them off of people's houses so they can get a tarp on the roof to keep water from coming in. I especially try to look after the elderly and the widowed people first and make sure they're safe. This is the worst I've seen in 15 years.”
Some areas of the city never lost power.
Monkeez Brew, 32 E. Main St., managed to stay open throughout the weekend and proved to be a beacon for those seeking relief from the dark.
“We never missed a beat,” said Steve Swaney, owner of Monkeez Brew. “It was great for business. People were coming in to charge their cell phones and computers. Others were coming in for some heat. We had entire families in here.”
City crews have started picking up debris and Craver said the efforts may intensify if FEMA funds become available. Craver advises residents to put their debris by the street and the city will pick it up as soon as possible.
“Right now we're going with our forces and trying to make a dent in this situation,” Craver said. “We'll pursue further potential FEMA funding and contract of services to clear this debris in more rapid fashion. I'm a little unsure of the process right now.”
Through it all, Simmons said she saw first-hand how compassionate people can be in a time of crisis.
“To see people come by asking if I need help, people I don't know, the spirit of Thomasville, you hear people talking about it, but it really happened,” said Simmons. “People have brought me food, a guy came over and showed me how to light my gas stove. I feel truly blessed.”
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.