Weather

Slow-moving storms trigger brief tornado warnings

Posted May 14, 2012 6:35 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2012 6:22 a.m. EDT

— Heavy rainfall dumped water across North Carolina Monday, and the potential for showers and thunderstorms is expected to linger through Wednesday.

A slow-moving weather system crept across the state, causing flash flooding and standing water in many western counties, before reaching the Triad Monday night. That system will edge into the viewing area overnight, but is expected to weaken considerably before reaching the Triangle, said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.

Still, some counties could experience downpours and cloud-to-ground lightning.

"We could be looking at an inch or more of rain from the Triangle eastward to the coast," Maze said.

That amount of rain could cause problems on the road and the state Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be careful.

"People drown in their cars, cars get flipped upside down. We've all heard stories about cars found with someone upside down (who) couldn't get out," said DOT spokesman Steve Abbott. "That's the kind of thing that could happen."

He said that the best way to stay safe on wet roads is to drive defensively, stay alert and never drive through standing or rushing water.

"It pays to be careful," Abbott said.

Earlier Monday, brief tornado warnings were issued in Sampson and Duplin counties.

In Sampson County, weather spotters reported funnel clouds near Pine Ridge just before 5 p.m. The storm then moved into Duplin County, prompting a warning there that lasted about 15 minutes.

There were no reports of damage in either county.

Strong storms with cloud-to-ground lightning and potentially gusty winds were still possible as the system moved east. Flash flood watches in effect for several eastern counties until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

In Richmond County, there were reports of strong winds damaging the roofs and blowing siding off a couple of buildings. One person reported seeing a funnel cloud in Rockingham, although there has been no confirmation by the National Weather Service of a tornado in the area.

On Tuesday, storms will be less widespread but more intense, said WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel. Conditions will be better for severe storms in the afternoon and evening.

"We actually have a broad trough in the upper atmosphere that is sitting over the southeastern part of the country, and it's only moving painfully slow toward the east," Fishel said. "We're going to continue to have unsettled weather here until Wednesday, and then it looks like things will settle down – although I'm still not totally convinced of that."

Fishel said if the trough keeps moving east, there will be a pleasant stretch of weather in the upper 70s to low 80s from Thursday until the weekend.

"But there's an outside chance this thing could stall near the coast and start to wrap moisture back in, and that's why I don't want to make any promises just yet," he said.