RALEIGH, N.C. — Severe weather rapidly spread across central and eastern North Carolina on Sunday, bringing with it tornadoes, lightning, hail and strong wind gusts before clearing out of the area late Sunday night.
Shortly after 1 p.m., tornado warnings were issued multiple times in Orange, Durham, Wake, Chatham, Nash, Franklin, Harnett and Lee counties and there were several eyewitness reports of tornadoes touching down.
Thousands of people in North and South Carolina lost electricity during the storm. Progress Energy had 12,000 customers without power at the height of the storm. All the outages were restored overnight. Duke Energy crews restored all of their outages. Some 5,300 customers were in the dark during the peak of the bad weather.
In all, there were 18 tornado warnings and 22 severe thunderstorm warnings.
The National Weather Service recorded three tornado sightings: in northern Wake County near the intersection of U.S. Highway 401 and N.C. Highway 98 at 6:43 p.m.; in Sanford in Lee County near U.S. Higway 1 and N.C. Highway 42 at 7:35 p.m.; and just northeast of Sanford at 7:41 p.m.
There were no injuries reported directly related to the storm, but the North Carolina Highway Patrol reported numerous traffic accidents across the affected area -- none with any major injuries or deaths.
The storm, however, did cause damage in several areas of the WRAL viewing area:
A warehouse roof was blown off in Sanford, where a tornado warning was issued but no strikes were confirmed, Sanford police said.
In Wake County, the Raleigh Fire Department received 22 calls from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Raleigh firefighters responded to three house fires, which started in the attics, in Northeast Raleigh off of Durant Road. All three are believed to be lightning strikes. There were also reports of house fires in Knightdale and Wakefield.
Minor flooding was reported in Cary, but there had been no serious damage reported. Trees were down in the southern part of Wake County in the Penny Road area and a few trees were down in Wake Forest.
Lightning was also to blame for a fire at Durham's Horton Road Free Will Baptist Church where the rear part of the steeple was damaged. The inside of the church, however, was OK.
In Cary, a 100-year-old tree snapped and fell onto a carport. There was no car inside at the time and no one was injured.
Dime- to golf ball-sized hail was reported in at least 10 central North Carolina counties with the largest in Wake and Durham counties and also in Orange County near Efland and in Granville County near Purnell.
There were no major reports of damage in Franklin, Lee, Moore, Orange or Chatham counties and no other damage in Durham County, where tornado warnings were issued earlier on Sunday.