Weather

Tornado in Greensboro had wind speeds of 135 mph

A tornado that cut a path of destruction and destroyed homes in Greensboro on Sunday had wind speeds of 135 mph, making it an EF-2 twister.

One person died in Greensboro when a tree landed on top of a vehicle as severe storms spread across North Carolina. Much of the damage, including downed trees and toppled homes, occurred on the eastern side of the Guilford County city, roughly 80 miles west of Raleigh.

The tornado was spotted near U.S. 29 and East Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Raleigh. The twister then traveled into Rockingham County, which borders Virginia, and caused damage near Reidsville.

About 85,000 Duke Energy customers in North Carolina were without power Sunday evening. The number had been cut to 35,000 by late Monday morning, with most of the outages in Guilford County. By 6 p.m. Monday, Duke Energy was reporting fewer than 15,000 outages.

Several homes were damaged or destroyed.

Alva Gripper, 72, installed new windows in her Greensboro home last month, and she made the first payment for them on Friday. Sunday's storm destroyed the windows, ripped the roof off of her home and and tore away the left side of the house.

"It's good, it's good. I'm fine," Gripper said Monday. "I'll just take it one day at a time and take it in stride."

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper went to Greensboro on Monday to see the storm damage.

“We are greatly saddened to learn of a death from these storms, but are grateful that so many of our residents came through it safely,” he said in a statement. “Today cleanup begins, and we all need to pull together to help these communities pick up the pieces.”

County and state emergency management officials will continue to assess the damage over the next few days. Their findings “will help determine if this weather event will qualify for individual or community financial assistance from the state or federal governments,” according to Cooper's office.

The city of Greensboro and Guilford County both declared states of emergency. Search and rescue teams went house-to-house in the affected areas, and the Civil Air Patrol planned to conduct an aerial assessment of Guilford and Rockingham counties.

One shelter is open in Greensboro, where the Red Cross is providing shelter for those who need a place to stay.

Guilford County schools closed Monday for cleanup, while school administrators assessed damage to school buildings. Three elementary schools will relocate for the remainder of the academic year due to storm damage, said spokeswoman Tina Firesheets. They are Hampton Elementary School, Erwin Montessorri School and Peeler Open Elementary School.

Rain, wind

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center defines an EF-2 tornado as one capable of delivering "considerable damage" with wind speeds between 113 and 157 mph. The rankings are EF-1 to EF-5.

The Triangle escaped much of the storm's damage, but it saw heavy rain and gusts of wind Sunday. One National Weather Service observer measured 5.09 inches of rain north of New Hill in Wake County, though others measured less than an inch where they live.

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Alva Gripper, 72, sorts through clothing in the remnants of her home in Greensboro, N.C. Monday, April 16, 2018. A tornado ripped through this eastern Greensboro neighborhood destroying dozens of homes. Gripper, who will now stay with the daughter said , "It's good, it's good...I'm fine, I'll just take it one day at a time and take it in stride." She was not at home when the storm hit. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The weather stemmed from two storm systems hitting the area in quick succession.

A "very strong and deep” low pressure system moved south out of the Ohio Valley and was tailed by a cold front, said Gail Hartfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

The Ohio Valley storm created widespread showers and thunderstorms that interacted with and sucked energy from the cold front system, Hartfield said.

Between 2 and 5 inches of precipitation dropped over swaths of the Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains.

Hartfield said the National Weather Service did not record any flash floods with "life-threatening" water levels, but downed trees and isolated pools of water closed roads statewide.

Storms also left scattered damage in Mecklenburg, Iredell and Alamance counties.

In Greensboro, onlookers asked Gripper if they could take a picture of her damaged her home. She answered, "Only if you pick up some stuff."

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks
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