Storms toss trees, hurl hail, tangle traffic
Posted April 24, 2014
Updated April 26, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Clouds swirled and hail pounded communities across central and eastern North Carolina Friday afternoon as a cold front and warm front clashed, creating a dangerous weather situation.
Friday's weather was unusual in that storms were scattered across the state instead of progressing in a solid line, according to WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel.
"Any of these storms are candidates to, at the very least, become severe and produce large hail if not produce tornadic activity," he said.
A warm, humid day saw temperatures build through midday into the 80s before storms began popping up.
At 1 p.m., the National Weather Service posted a tornado watch that covered the eastern half of the state. Those conditions, favorable for a tornado to form, continued until just after 8 p.m. The watch also signaled the severe storms to come.
That signal played out quickly in areas in the western edge of the Triangle – Alamance, Orange and Guilford counties – and in the Sandhills where winds whipped at 60 mph and hail piled up on yards and decks within an hour.
Those storms marched north and east, and sparked a round of tornado warnings in the northeast quadrant of the state just after 4 p.m. Trained weather spotters reported a funnel cloud and Ping-Pong-ball-sized hail in Wayne County.
A homeowner on Ida Road in Halifax County saw his roof blown off into nearby woods in the first batch of storms that swept through northeastern North Carolina between 4 and 5 p.m. A tornado was reported in Aventon, and storm spotters from Snow Hill to Goldsboro to Greenville and Wake Forest reported seeing threatening clouds and a lot of lightning. More than 1,000 customers were without power for some part of the afternoon and early evening.
East Carolina University, the City of Greenville and surrounding Pitt County also saw a tornado warning, and the campus urged students to take shelter just before 5 p.m.
As the storms rocked areas to the north, Fayetteville and Cumberland County skies cleared in time for the gates to open at the annual Fayetteville Dogwood Festival.
A second round of storms marched across the Triangle as commuters hit the road, creating delays on busy Friday afternoon roads. "It's really slow going because we have a lot of rain in spots," said WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson.
Traffic lights in Raleigh were out at several major intersections, including Atlantic Avenue and Six Forks Road, the Wake Forest interchange with Interstate 440 and Old Wake Forest and Falls of Neuse roads.
By dusk, the skies were clearing from west to east, and a pleasant weekend was expected to follow.
Saturday and Sunday promise highs in the upper 70s to near 80 degrees, mild evenings and overnight lows hovering in the mid-50s and clear or mostly clear, sunny skies.