Severe storms move out of the Triangle, flooding still possible

Posted December 20, 2020 7:14 a.m. EST
Updated December 24, 2020 11:51 p.m. EST

— Christmas Eve was a busy day of weather watches and warnings across central and eastern North Carolina.

Wake county was under a severe thunderstorm warning until 10 p.m. on Thursday night. Winds of up to 60 mph were possible as a band of storms bringing heavy rain and strong winds moved east.

Much of the Triangle is also still under a flood advisory until midnight. Some areas could see minor flooding as a second band of storm brings more heavy rain. Up to 1 and a half inches of rain already fell in some parts of the WRAL viewing area.

Once the final band of storms cleared out, there will be no more severe weather in the Triangle.

Much of the eastern half of the state, including Wake and Johnston counties, is under a tornado watch – which means conditions are right for tornadoes to form – through 10 p.m.

Warnings began before 3 p.m., when rotation was detected by radar near Clinton. Warnings were issued and allowed to cancel as the line of storms progressed and changed.

By 3:30 p.m., the National Weather Service spotted a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado
located 11 miles north of Clinton, moving northeast at 40 mph.

At 4 p.m., tornado warnings covered parts Bladen, Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash, Wayne, Wilson, Cumberland and Sampson counties. By 4:30 p.m., those warnings were reduced to severe thunderstorm warnings.

Residents of Salemburg in Sampson County reported heavy downpours and flash flooding. Heavy rain also fell along and east of Interstate 95.

"Showers and storms are likely through at least 11 p.m., with some being strong to severe," WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.

To top off 2020: There's a risk for sevre weather this Christmas Eve

Multiple counties, including Johnston, Cumberland, Wayne, Wilson and Nash, are also under a wind advisory until 1 a.m. on Friday. Winds of 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph are expected.

Bitter cold air for Christmas morning

A second line of storms, expected to cross North Carolina late Thursday night, will usher in much colder temperatures. Overnight on Christmas Eve, temperatures will drop across the Triangle from the mid-60s to the mid-30s.

"Once the cold front passes at around midnight, we should see the temperatures drop, the air stabilize and then just rain is expected until close to daybreak," said WRAL meteorologist Kat Campbell.

In central North Carolina, the high on Christmas Day will reach only about 40 degrees, with wind chills that make it feel like the 20s, Maze said.

The cold continues into the weekend, with Friday's overnight low dipping below 20 degrees.

Saturday and Sunday will be cold and clear, with temperatures gradually climbing back to more normal daytime highs in the 50s.

WRAL Night of Lights canceled for Christmas Eve

With heavy rain and gusty winds in the forecast, WRAL and the City of Raleigh have canceled the Christmas Eve viewing of Nights of Lights at Dorothea Dix Park.

The drive-thru light show will be suspended to keep workers and visitors from the danger of high winds.

Anyone with a ticket for Nights of Lights on Dec. 24 will get an email assigning them to another time slot on another night.

Ticketholders also have the option to request a refund at any time for any reason.

7-Day Forecast

Like Christmas, the weekend will be very cold, with highs in the mid 40s. Chances are very slim for snow, even with the cold weather temperatures.

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