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Microburst destroys Wilmington highway department roof | News, Sports, Jobs

The Wilmington Highway Department building is seen here on Friday, May 13.
(Provided photo — Roy Holzer)

Friday the 13th was an unlucky one for the Wilmington Highway Department this month. A mysterious wind event ripped through the department building’s roof on May 13, and the town has declared a state of emergency to kickstart the repair process and order a mobile office for the highway department.

Investigators determined that a microburst wind event made for what town Supervisor Roy Holzer termed a “freaky” Friday for highway department workers. Holzer said that when the town’s highway superintendent called him that morning and told him what happened, Holzer thought it was part of their usual banter.

“It’s what we do here in Mayberry,” Holzer said, referencing an affectionate nickname for Wilmington based on the fictional North Carolina community in the “Andy Griffith Show” from the 1960s.

After a while, Holzer said, the tone in the superintendent’s voice convinced him it was true. Holzer said the scene was “unbelievable” that morning. There was debris all over the parking lot, and the 45-year-old highway department building’s roof was torn to shreds.

He said two state fire investigators and some insurance companies looked into the cause of the damage, and they couldn’t find anything in the building that could have done it — not a methane leak, a torch left on, or anything else that could have inflicted the explosion-like damage. Holzer said he talked to an insurance adjuster who said they’d seen similar types of microburst events come across their desk in the past.

The town declared a state of emergency because of the damage, Holzer said. From an insurance standpoint, that authorized the town to hire an engineer from the county to take a complete look at the extent of the damage in the building. The declaration also allowed the town to get a temporary, mobile office that’s arriving this week, Holzer said.

No equipment inside the building was damaged by the event, and everything was taken out of the building so debris doesn’t fall and cause any damage, Holzer said.

Holzer met with a county-approved company on Wednesday that’s giving the town an estimate for how much it would cost to remove sheetrock in half of the building’s ceiling and take out some insulation that got wet. Then, he said, the company would put a tarp over the garage to temporarily cover the roof up. He said his most immediate concern is getting rid of some of the insulation and materials in the building that could be retaining moisture and growing mold from exposure to the elements.

Outside of those measures, Holzer said the town’s “hands are tied” as it waits on its insurance company to determine the extent to which the town needs to repair or replace the building. It couldn’t be a worse time to repair, reconstruct or construct anything right now, Holzer said, with the increased cost of building materials.

Holzer said he’s keeping the lines of communication open with the town about how repairs proceed. That was expected to be one of the topics at the town’s work session on Wednesday, when he said the town board would reinforce and reiterate the decisions he’s been making with the highway superintendent.

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