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Neighbor describes storm that blew down condo complex

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A condominium complex on Sablewood Court in Brier Creek completely collapsed when winds pushed over the structure. A condominium complex on Sablewood Court in Brier Creek completely collapsed when winds pushed over the structure.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The fierce winds that hit the Triangle Saturday left one person dead and one development flattened, and on Monday, startled residents still struggled to make sense of the damaging bursts.

A condominium complex on Sablewood Court in Brier Creek completely collapsed when winds pushed over the structure.

Much worse, though, was the death of woman Saturday as she was walking on a greenway with her family near Dunn Road in Raleigh.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, gusts of winds hit 86 miles an hour Saturday. And that wind blast damaged part of a terminal at RDU, and even flipped a few small planes.

"You respect Mother Nature when you see this," neighbor Fran Komasky said. "It blew in so fast."

The developer of the condominium complex said it has retained a structural engineer to make sure the rest of the complex that remained standing is OK.

In a statement, Toll Brothers said because the building was only partially completed it didn't have the necessary structural bracings and supports to withstand 86-mph winds. Toll Brothers is a huge development company that is currently building in 19 states, according to its website, and its stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Structures that are in such an early phase of construction, such as the portion of the building at issue here which did not yet have the benefit of all of the intended structural bracings and support, are not capable of withstanding the extreme (80-plus mph) winds that were encountered on Saturday," Toll Brothers said in a statement.

"Although there were six other units in a different portion of the same building further along in construction which did not sustain a loss, Toll is retaining an engineer to confirm that their structural integrity was not compromised by this recent storm."

Neighbors said the conditions Saturday were scary.

"The rain blew sideways," Komasky said. "The trees were bending and blowing. We didn't realize it was as loud as it was until it stopped."

Those winds toppled trees around the area, crushing a mobile home in Cary and destroying roofs all over Raleigh.

One person, 50-year-old Cheryl Harrison, was killed when a tree fell and hit her on the greenway. She was out with her husband and son walking the Abbots Creek Greenway.

"It's tragic what happened to her," resident Patrick Stevenson said. "It's terrible. It could have happened to anybody."

"I've been thinking about this a lot today," said Matt Sanders, one resident in the area. "You have no control over it. That's what really is the toughest thing to deal with -- you have no control."

Harrison was hit around 2:30 p.m. Saturday when high winds caused a portion of a tree to break and fall. She was a local artist who was described by friends as someone who loved being outdoors.

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