Severe weather slams central NC; damage reported in Durham
Posted May 15
Updated May 16
Durham, N.C. — Trees toppled onto homes in Durham and rain swamped roads in Raleigh as storms rumbled across central North Carolina on Thursday, prompting numerous tornado and flash flood warnings throughout the region.
The day of wild weather began with storms firing to the southwest of the Triangle in the early afternoon and moving northeast over several hours. At 6:10 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Durham County after radar picked up rotational winds moving north.
Within the hour, trees and power lines were down along University Drive, Hope Valley Road, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alpine Road. Durham emergency management reported trees had fallen on at least three homes, but no one was injured. Duke Energy reported more than 5,200 customers were without power in Durham Thursday night.
WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said although a tornado has not been confirmed by the National Weather Service, radar indicated debris in the University Drive area. That debris signal is usually associated with a tornado touchdown, he said.
“That cell weakened and then re-intensified over Person County, which caused a tornado warning there,” Fishel said. “But I don’t think we’ve gotten any reports of damage from there.”
Margarito Reyes was driving on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway near Hope Valley Road when he saw what he thought was a tornado. Reyes, and others in the area, described the winds as swirling.
"It was a swooshing sound, it was white," he said.
Residents spent Thursday evening removing storm debris from their homes.
A tree crushed George Leach's car and caved part of the roof on his house in the Forest Edge neighborhood. He and his wife were inside their residence when the storm hit.
"It was terrible...thank the heavenly father right now," he said.
Flash flooding could continue to be an issue for parts of the Triangle early Friday morning due to heavy rains. More than 3 inches of rain fell in parts of the area, Fishel said.
Cars were trapped by high water in the Lowe’s parking lot off U.S. Highway 70 in Garner, and there were reports of pea-sized hail in Rougemont.
More than 1,000 customers in Wake County were without power Thursday night.
The National Weather Service reported evacuations at Camelot Village apartments in Chapel Hill, a location which has been plagued by flooding problems in the past.
"I am going to wait it out,” said Gary Brusseau, who lives in the area. “I don't think it is going to be that bad. Where I live it is slightly higher ground than most people towards Bolin Creek, closer to the creek. So I am confident, but I still keep my fingers crossed too."
Fishel said the system that swept through the state was related to the strong cold front that wreaked havoc in the Great Plains earlier in the week.
“Once the front passes, the air will feel much different,” Fishel said.
The region will dry out Friday as the humidity drops and temperatures stay mild in the 70s.
“Saturday is looking like a gem, with lots and lots of sunshine,” Fishel said.