Winter Storm Diego collapses lumberyard roof and power outages linger

The roof at Reeves Hardware Co. at 275 Main Street in Highlands, caved in on Sunday due to the weight of snow and ice said store Manager Jim Luke. Staff are still assessing the damage to the structure and the lumber stored within and there is no timeline when it will be replaced.

Pictured below is the lumberyard behind Reeves Hardware Co. that collapsed on Sunday night.

On top of having the roof collapse, Reeves was busy this weekend selling batteries, gas cans,generators, propane tanks, gloves, shovels, sleds, scrapers, and ice melt to name a few things people picked up before getting snowed in said Cashier Darlene Tillery.

“Saturday was really busy, that’s when it all started,” she said. “We were closed on Sunday and then it was slow Monday. Everybody had what they needed by then. Now if they could only turn my power back on.”

Town crews remove the many piles of snow along Main Street in Highlands on Dec. 11 in the aftermath of Winter Storm Diego.

Tillery is one of many still without power. She lives near Highlands Falls Country Club and has been without power since Sunday. Town of Highlands Engineer Lamar Nix said that crews have been out in full force since Saturday when it began snowing.

As temperatures dropped on the evening of Dec. 10, black ice covered many of the roadways.

As of 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec.10, Nix said they had restored 90-95 percent of reported power outages.

“We got two contract utility crews from Service Electric Sunday. They will be here until we are done,”said Nix. “Electric Dept, typically can split into three crews, Street Dept and Water Dept have been working on storm damage and streets. They are working overtime, clearing streets and repairing power lines.”

The two private electric crews helped with downed power lines and replacing poles. He added that town crews had all equipment and materials ready in advance of the storm as part of preparations and they are doing everything they can to restore power to homes and businesses.

We expect to have all power on by Wednesday afternoon,” said Nix.“Some services may be damaged to the point that homeowners need an electrician to make repairs before we can turn it on,” he said.

Town officials have been working night and day throughout the storm to restore power and expect all outages to be turned back on by Wednesday.

Responding to an incident like Winter Storm Diego took its toll on the town’s equipment.

“It went OK for the kind of storm we had,” said Nix. “The snow and ice were extremely wet, heavy and slippery. This caused a lot of problems with traction and was extremely hard on equipment as well as dangerous. Plus, an extreme amount of falling limbs.”

He added that no one should be near downed power lines and  try not to park in the street to make it possible for crews to remove snow along the roadways.

Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor said it was difficult keeping up with the number of downed powerlines and trees over the two-day storm.

“We followed our normal storm preparations and our crews began work as soon as the event began,” said Taylor. “Power lines were put up as soon as possible but the problem was that trees and limbs continued to fall on lines, so we could not get ahead of the situation. The combination of ice and snow created extra weight so several of our plows broke.”

Snow began to fall in Highlands again on the afternoon of Dec. 10 after a brief hiatus.

Taylor added that patience from the public is appreciated and that storm work is difficult, time consuming, and dangerous. 

“The state DOT is overwhelmed in WNC,” said Taylor. “Our crews have been working all weekend and as of yesterday some of them had not been home since Saturday morning. This snow is also heavy and full of ice which has made removal very slow. Several of our plows have broken under heavy loads.”

Highlands Police Chief Bill Harrell said his officers have been busy all weekend helping stranded motorists. He said during a storm like Diego the best thing to do is stay at home.

Piles of snow line Main Street in Highlands on the evening of Dec. 10.

“All I’ve got time to do is respond to people who do not need to be traveling these roads at this time because they are putting others at risk trying to rescue them,” said Harrell. “If they have a medical emergency, they need to call 911, otherwise stay put.”

As of press time, the temperature in Highlands is 33 degrees and projected to rise with a high of 42 degrees and sunny.

Editor’s Note: For those who are out and about, especially pedestrians, be aware of what you are walking under.Throughout my coverage of Winter Storm Diego, I was hit several times by falling ice, primarily from power lines. That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how rarely you look up.

Article and photos by BrianO’Shea
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