Greensboro is 639 miles inland from Mexico Beach, Florida, where Michael made landfall. But Michael had plenty of punch left for the Gate City. Fortunately, unlike Florence, Michael moved fast so, by dusk, the rainfall and wind were gone but Michael had left a good bit of destruction in its wake.
Greensboro received a drenching rain that lessened only to return in force. That barrage slowed about when predicted, but Michael was just catching its breath.
About 2:30 p.m., the air pressure dropped noticeably, the wind and rain whipped into a frenzy. Electric power went out in entire neighborhoods. Also, by then, the storm water system was overloaded and streets became or at least appeared to be impassable. The drenched ground made large trees easy work for the heightened winds. Power lines, limbs and, because it’s the season, campaign signs littered neighborhood streets.
Audubon Park, the nature preserve east of North Elm Street along Buffalo Creek, is normally a natural area under high-tension power lines. After Michael, it looked for all the world like a river.
A drive through northwest Greensboro – made random because every other street turned into a detour – showed far more destruction than many in Greensboro might have expected.
It wasn’t hard to find trees blocking major streets. Access to West Cone Boulevard was blocked at Marston Road by a felled hardwood so wide that its branches covered the hanging Cone Boulevard street sign and sparred with the traffic lights.
With most traffic lights in the area out, traffic became snarled. Greensboro police officers began directing traffic at some busy intersections, including at Cone Boulevard and North Elm Street, Friendly Avenue at Green Valley Road and North Holden at West Cornwallis.
Working or not, traffic lights whipped and twisted in the wind, becoming dangerous-looking pendulums.
On side streets, the chaos continued as drivers looked for ways around blocked streets only to find more blockage. Some apparently passable neighborhood streets became indeterminably deep stretches of water. In Fisher Park, lines of vehicles backed up on each side of the impromptu lakes. Cars crawled through, drivers hoping to avoid drenching their engines. SUVs sometimes roared through at contemptuous speeds, throwing up waves on either side. Some drivers chose not to risk crossing and made 16-point turns to go back the way they came, creating new lines of frustrated drivers.
Accidents and other emergencies drew fire trucks and ambulances to houses and intersections, blocking more streets.
Fire trucks blocked the eastbound lanes of West Friendly Avenue after a house fire broke out at 4207 W. Friendly Ave. Firefighters on the scene said the cause of the fire had not been determined, but that power lines were down near the house.
By dark, the extent of the power outage was visible. Most of northwest Greensboro was dark. Except for a few businesses and churches, West Friendly Ave. was dark between Quaker Village Shopping Center at College Road and Friendly Center. Streetlights in the area were out.
On West Market Street, the eastbound lanes were also dark, the blue lights on a lone police cruiser marking where a downed power line crossed the street near Starmount Country Club.