RALEIGH, N.C. — A strong storm system loaded with heavy rain and wind quickly moved eastward across the region Friday.
Most counties in the WRAL-TV viewing area had been under a tornado watch for most of the day. Minor damage was reported in Harnett County. Witnesses say the storm tore down trees, ripped off shingles from rooftops and rattled some nerves.
"I went to get the dog and bring her inside, and then it started pouring. It took the glass door and flung it against the house. I just grabbed the kids and sat in the closet," resident Lisa Stephenson said.
The storm dumped heavy rain along the Johnston/Wilson County line Friday. The rain caused minor flooding on many side streets. Flooding was reported in downtown Smithfield near Bridge Street and 5th Avenue.
One motorist was killed Friday as a result of the severe weather in the area. Officials say a sports utility vehicle was traveling on Interstate 95 when it hydroplaned off the road. The driver reportedly struck a tree and the passenger was ejected from the vehicle. The passenger was pronounced dead at the scene.
Several tornado sightings were reported by the public and law enforcement. There was an unofficial report of a tornado along the Harnett-Wake County line at 1:50 p.m.
WRAL meteorologist Chris Thompson first reported a tornado was spotted on the ground near Princeton around 11:40 a.m. Law enforcement reported a tornado on the ground near Oakland Church Road near the Wayne-Johnston County line.
A tornado was also reported near N.C. 401 in Piney Grove, also in Wayne County.
At 12:03 a.m., a tornado sighting was reported near Nahunta in Johnston County.
"There's no damage yet," said Ed Lewis, chief of police in the town of Princeton. "The power has flickered a few times. We're in the middle of it now."
Jason Barber of the Johnston County emergency services office said numerous tornadoes had been reported on the ground, but there were no reports of damage.
"We're getting multiple funnel clouds," Barber said.
People living in a mobile home or low-lying area were urged to seek shelter immediately.
The safest place to be during a tornado is on the lowest floor of the building in an interior hallway or room such as a closet. Use blankets or pillows to cover your body and always stay away from windows. Stay away from windows and exterior walls as flying debris generated by tornadic winds can be deadly.