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More Severe Weather Than Usual Rumbles Through Area

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HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. — Thunderstorms cut a path through parts of Harnett County late Monday. Strong winds ripped apart a storage building near Dunn, and the crumbing walls crushed several pieces of farm equipment inside. The storm also splintered several large trees and tore off tin roofs in the area.

Frances and J.P. Dunn lost the roof off their home, and three of their cars were damaged.

"I was cooking supper and the cloud came up," said Frances Dunn.

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    Officials said the damage was likely caused by straight-line winds, not a tornado. With 269 severe weather warnings so far this year in central North Carolina, this season is busier than most. The area usually only averages 219 warnings, including both thunderstorm and tornado, during an average year.

    "Well, we're certainly above normal -- I'd even say way above normal for this time of year," said National Weather Center meteorologist Darin Figurskey,

    "Like somebody flipped a switch, the pattern has become more active," said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.

    Meteorologists from the National Weather Service and WRAL said cold air has been moving in up in the atmosphere, coming in from the Great Lakes area. When cold and hot air collide, they can create one stormy mess.

    At least two tornadoes have been confirmed so far this year. An amateur radio operator captured a picture of a tornado in Durham County on Mother's Day. More often, though, the damage is straight-line winds, which Maze said can be just as fierce.

    "Inside a thunderstorm you have up and down drafts," said Maze. "The stronger the storm, the stronger the up and down drafts. Those down drafts just plummet to the ground hit the ground and spread out."

    Straight-line winds hit Harnett County, Harris Lake County Park and the Dunn's house in Benson. Those are all places where the people don't want this year to get any worse.

    "Yeah, the house is a total loss," said J.P. Dunn. "We know that. But we'll do the best we can."

    By far, May 14 -- Mother's Day -- was the most active storm day so far in 2006. The NWS said there were 65 severe weather warnings that night in central North Carolina. Sixteen of those were tornado warnings.


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