Tryon residents survey storm damage

Published 3:25 pm Monday, October 9, 2017

TRYON – “My car was lifted off the ground!” said Marilyn Doheny, owner of Marilyn’s Melrose Inn on Melrose Ave. in Tryon. “I just kept saying, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’”

Doheny had just gotten in her car around 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, to head to the IGA for last minute groceries. When she turned onto Chestnut Street, the car lifted into the air. Doheny said the steering and the brakes didn’t work at all.

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“Then I hit,” she said. “That must have been when it dropped me back on the ground.”

Dohney was apparently caught in what is being reported as a microburst, small funnel cloud or small tornado that slammed through the Tryon and Lake Lanier area Sunday evening around 5:45 p.m.

As of noon Monday, Chief Geoffrey Tennant said there have been no reported death or injuries. However there are numerous trees down, power lines are down and there is minor damage to houses and structures.

“The damage extends from Lake Lanier to Lynn,” Tennant said.

Duke Energy was on the scene Monday morning. One worker said they were not sure how many customers were without power or how soon power would be restored.

Mike Byers who lives on Melrose Mountain said he heard at least seven telephone poles had snapped off and more than 100 trees were down.

Doheny said she lost two chickens when a large pine crashed through the top of the chicken coop behind the inn. Doheny lost several trees on her property and many of the neighbor’s trees wound up in her yard. “All the new construction is destroyed,” she said, explaining she had been making some improvements to get ready for the Tryon International Film Festival.

The Melrose Inn lost several trees that were at least 150 years old including one historic tree that had wisteria growing up its trunk. Their historic fireplace was buried under trees, branches and debris. Doheny confirmed she had one window broken.

Paul Zimmerman, Jr., warren of the Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Melrose Ave., didn’t realize the church had internal damage until around 11 Monday morning. He had gathered outside with church members to view the large tree that fell across the parking lot entrance and pointed out that the church’s antique stained glass window was still intact.

A few minutes later a church member walked up to report that the family room ceiling tile had fallen in and it was flooded inside.

Barbara Miles of Tryon said she heard 108 trees were down and that Old Howard Gap was closed off. Tennant reported there was extensive damage around Lake Lanier. While there was lots of damage to trees and some to property, most people were counting their blessings and beginning to help each other with clean up.

Doris Zorawicki who lives on Laurel Ave. said she didn’t have any damage to her house and came to help. “My friends said this area looked like a war zone,” she said. “I just wanted to come help.”

Doheny’s neighbor Mike Bates also came by to help. He and Melrose Inn gardener, Jarrell Diggs, manned the chain saw to start working on moving some of the trees. According to Doheny, Diggs had no idea of the damage until he reported for work Monday morning.

Other neighbors came by offering coffee and once she realized her building that she calls “the old Dame” was in good shape, Doheny began inviting neighbors to join them on the porch for coffee they brewed on the gas stove.

Tennant is cautioning everyone to stay away from any downed power lines. “Treat them all as if they are live,” he said. “You never know.”

He is also asking for people to be patient and realize the power company is working as fast as they can to restore power. “It may be tonight, it may be tomorrow or later,” he said. “This event is the same level as the blizzard of ’93 except no snow. It will take a while before things will return to normal.”