High winds present new threat of falling trees, power outages

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Strong wind gusts across the Piedmont Wednesday night are causing residents and street crews to brace themselves for more downed trees after last week’s ice storm.

“35-40 mile an hour wind gusts, it'll blow [trees] over. The root system is already broken. There's not much holding them,” said Benji Mullis, M&M Mowing.

Mullis’ company is contracted by the state to clear downed trees along interstates. As a safety precaution, NCDOT told crews to stop working Wednesday morning due to weather.

However, one High Point resident decided the approaching storm was a reason to work faster.

“We got a mess, that's for sure,” said Lathe White. “We're going to have a problem with some overhanging limbs, so I'm going to do what I can today before it gets here.”

White’s power is still out from last week’s storm. He says his biggest concern is a broken transformer hanging over power lines on Chestnut Drive.

Franklin Woods is scared the oak tree outside his home on Cloverdale Street in High Point is going to crash.

"When the winds get up, I know this tree will come down," Woods said.

The tree now sits on its limbs after tipping over last Friday.

And with wind gusts expected to get above 40 miles an hour Wednesday night, Woods fears it will completely tip over.

"I'm afraid,” Woods said. “I'm afraid at night. I can't sleep. It's like we're trapped and can't come outside."

The high winds aren't just scary to residents.

High point street crews who've been working round the clock since Friday fear strong winds blowing down trees and debris from last week's ice storm are a recipe for disaster.

"We are expecting the worst," said Scott Cherry, civil engineer for High Point Public Services.

Crews from the state’s department of transportation have already picked up 200,000 cubic yards of debris from Guilford County.

"We could find ourselves with more trees down and blocking rounds," said Brad Wall, division seven maintenance engineer for DOT.

It could also cause more dangerous situations like a tree that now hangs on live power lines on Bus. 85 near the Jamestown exit.

Wall says say they can't move the tree until Duke Energy shuts off power to the lines.

"It's going to cause a lot of problems,” Woods said.

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