Windy Wednesday could whip up storms, isolated tornadoes

Posted January 29, 2013 6:15 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2013 11:11 p.m. EST

— After more than a week-long cold snap, sunshine and 70-degree weather brought spring-like conditions back to the Triangle Tuesday, but an approaching cold front could whip up strong to severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes on Wednesday.

"Ninety-six hours ago, we were in the 20s with ice and here we are with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s," said WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel. "It's going to be even warmer tomorrow, but there is going to be a bit of a price to pay."

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for most central North Carolina counties, including Wake, Durham and Orange, from noon Wednesday to 4 a.m. Friday.

Winds could gust up to 45 or 50 mph during the day, and could be even higher inside any thunderstorms that form late Wednesday and early Thursday.

"The atmosphere is not going to be all that unstable, but the wind field is going to be incredible," Fishel said. "It is going to be a hold-on-to-your-hat day, no question about it."

Central North Carolina won't see any records fall during the brief midweek warm-up, but the quick blast of warm, muggy air is a stark contrast to the recent cold snap that included two separate instances of wintry weather.

The sun was out across central North Carolina for much of the day Tuesday, and temperatures topped out in Raleigh at 70 degrees, some 20 degrees warmer than normal.

The warm air will linger overnight and into the day Wednesday, but a strong cold front will usher in windy conditions, clouds and eventually thunderstorms that could turn severe during the late evening hours. 

"We are in an elevated risk area tomorrow for the chance of severe thunderstorms and maybe some isolated tornadoes tomorrow evening as the frontal system begins to approach," Fishel said. "Obviously, we have a lot to keep an eye on tomorrow, especially late in the day and at night." 

The storms should clear out quickly as the front pushes east of the Triangle. That clearing will allow cool air to filter back into the area for the latter half of the work week and weekend. 

Highs will top out near 50 degrees Thursday, Friday and Saturday under mostly sunny skies, and overnight lows will return to the low 30s and even upper 20s.