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Strong storms bring tornado warning, floods

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Wind, rain and possible tornadoes made travel dicey late last week as area schools closed or sheltered in place while severe storms moved east.

While Wake County felt the brunt of the storm, most of the county’s student population had dismissed for the day ahead of the predicted severe weather.

Students in Nash and Franklin counties were not so fortunate as the weather hit just as schools were beginning to dismiss for the day.

“Hold all car students inside and all bus riders in their classrooms,” Southern Nash High Principal Hugh Scott said over the school’s radio after hearing a tornado warning was issued immediately after the school’s first dismissal bell sounded.

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools’ transportation department ordered all buses that had already departed from their schools district-wide to return immediately to the school and seek safe shelter. Buses were delayed leaving by roughly one hour.

“We apologize for the delay,” said district spokeswoman Christine Catalano. “However, the safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance.”

While southern Nash County dodged any major wind damage, flooding quickly became an issue as some of the main streets in downtown Spring Hope became impassable due to clogged storm drains.

On East Nash Street, levels rose to the bottom of car doors as water ran into the streets. On Ash Street, a similar scene near the Pine Street intersection greeted travelers in an area of the street known for flooding regularly.

Although the flooding was within the city limits and technically the responsibility of Envirolink, the town’s contracted public works company, the N.C. Department of Transportation responded to the Nash Street flooding, as the road is part of the highway system.

“We certainly appreciate the emergency drain clearing that DOT provided to alleviate the flooding on Nash Street,” said Spring Hope Town Manager Jae Kim.

Envirolink had worked steadily Feb. 4-5 to mitigate the chance of flooding ahead of the storm, but large amounts of storm debris and the sheer volume of rainwater caused many of the town’s drains to flood anyways.

In nearby Bunn, a possible tornado caused heavy damage to the town’s fire department bay doors. At Bunn High School, damage to baseball facility included the loss of the large sponsor board and one of the dugouts, as well as damage to a large section of fencing from a fallen power pole.

Numerous trees were down throughout the Bunn area as well as in the Lake Royale community, where several pines at the entrance gate were on the ground.

Several trees were down at the main gate to Lake Royale.

Widespread power outages and falling trees were still being reported at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night as a steady rain continued to fall.

Due to the damage, risk of flooding and continued threat of falling trees across the area, Franklin County Schools canceled classes Friday. Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, along with school districts in Wilson County, Johnston County and Wake County, all announced a two-hour delay.

Parts of the area remained under a flood warning until Sunday morning.

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