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High winds knock out power to 1,500 customers

Winds kept flags waving on Thursday. Winds kept flags waving on Thursday.

Nearly 1,500 customers were without power and traffic lights were out on Four Seasons Boulevard Thursday as high winds battered Henderson County.

Buncombe County, with 1,580 outages, and Henderson County, with 1,584, had nearly the same total number of customers that lost power around 1 p.m. About an hour later, outages in Henderson County had dropped to 1,318.

"The weather started moving in around 5 a.m.," said Meghan Miles, a Duke Energy spokeswoman. "After the storm impact, crews have been working as quickly and as safely as they can to restore power. We are aiming to have most of them restored by the end of the day but some could linger into tomorrow."

A windstorm poses special challenges because Duke Energy does not permit crews to work in elevated buckets in sustained winds or gusts of 30 mph or more.

"We've had a lot of emergency traffic, a lot of trees blown across the roads and multiple power outages," Sheriff's Maj. Frank Stout said. "Emergency services, Duke Power, fire departments — they have been getting it. I know some of the fire departments have actually cut some of them out of the road to open the road back up."

Calls remained steady up to mid-day.

"It was still pretty heavy around lunchtime," Stout said. "It hit right at lunchtime and affected several businesses on that side of town."

"It's started slowing down some," Emergency Services Manager Jimmy Brissie said at 3 p.m. "As of a few minutes ago, fire departments have run about 57 calls for either trees down or power lines down or something like that. It has definitely been a pretty steady day. It looks like the Duke outages are starting to come down."

No major injuries or major property damage were reported. "The power outages have led to some traffic lights being out and that's made for a lot of challenges and inconvenience for motorists," Brissie said.

Because of technical problems with internet service, the Henderson County school system announced before 8 a.m. Thursday that remote learning would be called off. It was unclear whether winds had caused the problem.

The National Weather Service issued a warning, in effect until 4 p.m., that the northwest winds could reach 20-30 steadily with gusts of 40-50 mph. The forecast calls for low tonight of 22 and high Friday of 44 under sunny skies. After mostly sunny skies Saturday, there is a 90 percent chance of precipitation later that night in what could be a wintry mix. The precipitation was expected to change to all rain after 8 a.m. Sunday.