RALEIGH — Sunday storms brought the state some relief from another day of record, three-digit temperatures, but authorities said high winds caused three deaths in Eastern North Carolina and left more than 81,000 customers in the Carolinas without power and air conditioning.
Pitt County Sheriffs Office spokeswoman Christy Wallace said one person was killed in the county and two in neighboring Beaufort County by the storms. She said a 77-year-old man was killed in Pitt County when high winds collapsed a barn as he was moving an ATV into it.
In the neighboring county, she said, a husband and wife died when a tree fell on their golf cart.
Hardest hit was Beaufort County, where two hangars were destroyed and the terminal roof was torn off at the airport in Washington, said John Pack, the countys emergency management coordinator. Pack said seven mobile homes were destroyed and 50 other structures had damage. He said that 40 people were at hospitals, but the injuries werent life-threatening.
The storms that passed through in mid-afternoon brought blistering temperatures down from a record of 103 for the day to 87, according to the National Weather Service. For homeless people with few options for shelter, as well as the tens of thousands who lost air conditioning, the heat meant far more than just another one for the record books.
Im a Floridian, and North Carolina is hotter than Florida, said Joseph Stirrup, 66, a recently homeless transplant who was visiting friends in sweltering Nash Square. You dont get that 105-, 106-degree heat in Florida.
Reports of power outages to growing numbers of customers were mixed with accounts of downed trees and, in Johnston County, a utility pole on fire.
There was some large hail associated with the storms, National Weather Service meteorologist Shawna Cokley said. Weve gotten reports from all over, of trees down in Person County.
Utility says it can manage
Jeff Brooks, a Progress Energy spokesman, said the company should be able to handle the storm-related outages without calling in outside help. In a lot of cases there was lightning with the storm, so there were some outages from that, but there was a lot of strong wind, trees down, limbs down, he said.
Heat waves typically cause skyrocketing demand for energy to keep homes and businesses cool, but Brooks said the utility has plenty of capacity because the hot weather arrived going into the weekend, then into a holiday week.
Some 66,000 Progress Energy customers were without power at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, while Duke Energy reported fewer outages in its territory in the Carolinas. Duke still had 13,150 customers without power, mostly south and west of the Triangle. More than 5,600 customers lacked service in Mecklenburg and Union counties at 8:30 p.m.
Nash, Wake, Lenoir, Granville, Franklin, Wilson, Sampson and Johnston counties all had at least 1,200 business or residential customers without power. In Craven County alone, Progress spokeswoman Jessica Lambert said, crews were working to restore power to more than 10,000 customers.
Heats hard on the homeless
In Raleighs Moore Square, a group of people, several of whom said they were homeless, discussed how to stay cool in the third day of record heat.
Tim Gaskins, 54, has been sleeping wherever he can find a spot.
Its unexpected, Gaskins said of the heat. Its been very tough. We get under trees; Im trying to stay as cool as I can.
Vickie Williams, 47, of Johnston County, was talking to relatives across Person Street from the square, stating her disgust about the lack of assistance for people she said were homeless.
Somebody needs to reach out and touch these people, she said.
Lynn Daniell, executive director of the Raleigh Rescue Mission, said the facility was operating under a white flag policy that allowed women at its emergency shelter to remain there during the day instead of being expected to leave at 7:15 a.m.
By 7 p.m., the temperature at RDU had climbed back to 94 degrees, the weather service reported. The high temperature was forecast to hit 100 degrees on Monday and stay in the high 90s through Wednesday.
Air conditioner repair businesses were not taking the weekend off.
Several in the Triangle said they had been visiting homes well into the night and early morning to fix units that couldnt keep up with the triple digit temperatures.
They said some of the problems could have been averted by having units checked before the hot weather hit.
Staff writer Ron Gallagher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.