Storms topple trees, knock out power in Triangle
A powerful storm system with an incredible wind shield toppled trees and knocked out power in central North Carolina Wednesday night, blasting the Triangle with a quick hit of heavy rain and some thunder and lightning before tracking east.Posted — Updated
The fast-moving, narrow line of storms moved in and out of Raleigh in less than an hour, WRAL meteorologists said.
Wind damage was reported across Wake County and in other parts of the viewing area Wednesday evening from powerful gusts ahead of the storm system.
Much of central North Carolina was under a tornado watch throughout the night and into early Thursday morning, but WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said the radar showed no signs of rotation.
Earlier Wednesday, the massive storm system raked across Tennessee and Georgia, killing two people and decimating homes.
Winds up to 60 mph are likely.
Anyone in those areas should seek shelter.
Meanwhile, tornado watches for Wake, Granville, Hoke, Warren, Franklin, Cumberland, Harnett and Vance counties have been canceled.
Much of the storm damage reported came from powerful wind gusts before the main line of storms reached central North Carolina, Fishel said.
The number of customers without power in Raleigh has increased to nearly 3,500, according to Progress Energy. Power has been restored, however, to most customers in Garner and Roxboro.
That could change at any time, though, Fishel said.
"There are hurricane-force sustained winds thousands of feet above ground," he said. "At any time, there's always a chance of a downdraft reaching the ground."
Firefighters were also called to a Knightdale neighborhood, where winds uprooted a tree and sent it crashing between two homes. The 60-foot tree took out a propane tank on its way down, creating a potentially dangerous gas leak, but no neighbors were evacuated and no injuries were reported.
One of the homes suffered very minor damage.
Winds and balmy temperatures have cast an eerie shadow over the Triangle as the worst of the storm heads this way.
"If you’ve been outside, you feel how different it feels. It does not feel like January," Maze said. "The winds are blowing really strong and it’s very warm."
More than 2,200 Progress Energy customers in Raleigh, 1,800 in Garner and 300 in Roxboro were without power as of 10:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Person and Granville counties until 11:15 p.m. Radar showed a severe thunderstorm extending along a line from 8 miles northeast of Concord to 5 miles southwest of Bushy Fork, moving east at 40 mph.
Anyone in Roxboro, Bethel Hill, Surl, Oak Hill, Moriah and Berea should seek shelter.
No injuries have been reported.
Very heavy rain is moving through Orange and Caswell counties at this time as the main line of storms heads this way, Maze said.
Temperatures were still hovering around 70 degrees in the Triangle as the storm approached, but once the line moves by, the air will cool significantly.
Two Eagle flights have been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which experienced delays averaging 90 minutes throughout the day due to severe weather in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey and Chicago.
No other flights are scheduled to depart Wednesday night.
Radar showed a severe thunderstorm extending along a line from 8 miles southwest of Camp Springs to 5 miles southwest of Asheboro, heading east at 30 mph. Quarter-sized hail and winds up to 60 mph are likely.
Another severe thunderstorm extends on a line from 6 miles west of Steeds to 6 miles southwest of White Store, tracking east at 30 mph.
Anyone in those areas should seek shelter.
A neighbor said the 60-foot tree fell on to a propane tank. He said firefighters told him to stay indoors and that there is a strong gas odor.
A 66-year-old man was taken to Cape Fear Valley Hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
Another tree fell on a house at 216 E. Lee St. in Raleigh, displacing two people. No one was injured, but neighbors who tried to help one of the residents, who is in a wheelchair, said they couldn't get to her due to downed power lines.
"The tree fell in her house, like in the middle of her house," neighbor Patrice Richards said. "She was in a wheelchair, so we were trying to see if we could get her out."
A first responder got both residents out safely.
N.C. 231 was closed in both directions as of 8:45 p.m.
The downed tree, near New Light Road and Harper’s Ridge Court in Wake Forest, damaged a car, but no one was injured.
Wind is to blame for downed power lines in Johnston County that closed N.C. Highway 231 in both directions east of Clayton around 8:15 p.m. Lanes are expected to reopen around 9:20 p.m.
The gusts were strong enough to bring a tree crashing down in Wake County, near New Light Road and Harper's Ridge Court. No one was injured, but a car was damaged.
The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for parts of western North Carolina, including Charlotte, and a severe thunderstorm watch farther north, including in Boone and Danville, Va.
"We fully expect additional watches will be issued this evening, to include most, if not all, of our viewing area," said WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel.