Published: 2007-04-14 16:38:00
Updated: 2007-04-16 08:06:13
Posted April 14, 2007 4:38 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2007 8:06 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The National Weather Service on Sunday posted tornado watches for central and eastern North Carolina and issued a tornado warning for Wake County in mid-afternoon as the state encountered a storm that has battered other states during the weekend.
Shortly before 1 p.m., a tornado watch was posted through 8 p.m. for Triangle counties, including Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham. A watch means conditions could generate a tornado. A warrning means such activity is suspected to be occurring, based on sightings or radar images.
Wind advisories remained in effect until Monday evening for much of the state, as winds from the northwest were expected to increase and become very gusty early Monday morning.
NWS forecasters cautioned residents to be wary of trees toppled by the high winds and recent rains, and to secure lightweight outdoor objects such as trashcans and lawn furniture. Wind gusts might also make driving difficult for motorists in high-profile vehicles.
As strong storms moved through the area early Sunday afternoon, small-sized hail was reported by spotters throughout central North Carolina. Also, toppled trees were spotted in Raleigh, Garner and Chatham County.
North Carolina Highway Patrol officials said late Sunday afternoon that numerous accidents due to the weather were reported in the counties of Johnston, Durham, and Wake. Two weather-related wrecks involved a tour bus and other vehicles on Interstate 40 in Cary and snarled traffic for over an hour late Sunday afternoon. One person was taken to an area hospital by ambulance in connection with those crashes.
Also, Duke Energy officials said that scattered power outages were reported in Durham and Orange counties and the city of Henderson, as well as several counties in the Piedmont and western North Carolina. Progress Energy reported a total of 12,000 outages throughout North Carolina late Sunday evening.
The weather service said hail as big as 1.5 inches in diameter, thunderstorms, wind gusts to 70 mph and dangerous lightning were possible in the watch area. That covered Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake, Warren, Wilson, Alamance, Anson, Chatham, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Granville, Guilford, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Person, Randolph, Richmond, Stanly and Vance counties.
An earlier tornado watch was issued for 35 counties.
In addition, wind advisories were posted for many counties in the western and central parts of the state, along with winter storm and freeze warnings in the mountains and high-surf warnings along the southeast coast.
Farther north, the storm threatened to hit harder.
Three hundred flights were canceled at the New York area's major airports early Sunday as a hard-blowing nor'easter bore down on the region and threatened to deliver some of the worst flooding in coastal Long Island in 14 years.
The cancellations affected most carriers, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. More cancellations were expected throughout the day.
Officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport said late Sunday evening that 23 flights headed to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Charlotte were cancelled due to weather on Sunday, and more flights scheduled for Monday have also been scuttled. Travelers were advised to check their flight schedule with their airline before heading to the airport, officials said.
Forecasters expected sustained winds of 40 mph and a storm-surge between 3 and 5 feet, a combination that could cause as much damage as a winter storm that wreaked havoc on the island in late 1992, Gov. Eliot Spitzer said.
The storm system spawned tornadoes west of the Tar Heel State. The same system brought snow that suspended the Durham Bulls' game with the Toledo Mudhens in the fourth inning.
The National Weather Service had issued flood watches from late Saturday evening to early Sunday morning, but there were no reports of any incidents by dawn Sunday.
NWS forecasters said showers and thunderstorms are likely in central North Carolina before 8 p.m. Sunday, then scattered showers until 2 a.m. Monday.
Rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches were expected overall in the area, with isolated amounts around 3 inches possible.