Possible tornadoes blast through central NC

Posted March 6, 2011 11:17 a.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 8:59 a.m. EST

— A cold front swept across North Carolina Sunday, whipping up damaging winds and prompting warnings for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

According to the National Weather Service, a funnel cloud formed in Edgecombe County and possible tornadoes were reported in Rolesville in northern Wake County and near the Wayne-Wilson County line.

Tornado warnings were issued for Edgecombe, Wayne and Wilson counties, but not for Wake.

"It came up (in Wake) very, very quickly," said Darin Figursky, spokesman for the National Weather Service. "From what we were able to diagnose looking back at the radar, had we been able to get out a warning, it still would have come out with essentially no lead time. It was very, very quick that it came up."

Storm damage from heavy rains and wind hit Chatham, Wake, Sampson, Franklin, Halifax and Warren counties, in some cases even uprooting trees and downing power lines.

Rolesville police closed Highway 401 at Young Street due to a house fire that ignited when a down power line struck the roof. Resident Cecil Bell, 86, was taken to WakeMed Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. He was listed in fair condition Sunday night.

"Cecil was lying outside the door on the wheelchair ramp," said Bell's nephew, Ron Brisson. Brisson said Bell is blind.

Steve Taylor lives near Bell and rushed to the home when he saw that it was on fire.

"The fire started and we were trying to get the door open and there was an explosion," Taylor said. "I don't know if it was gas or what."

The fire was contained Sunday night and no one else was injured. The home was not destroyed, authorities said, but the extent of the damage was not disclosed.

About 40 customers in the Rolesville area lost power, according to Progress Energy. The utility said it expected to restore all power by Monday morning.

A tornado warning for Edgecombe County expired at 7 p.m., weather officials said, because the storm had weakened significantly, but a funnel cloud was reported in the area. Authorities said the storm was capable of producing a tornado and was moving through the county at 40 mph, causing damage near Tarboro.

After the warnings expired, tornado watches were issued for Wilson, Nash, Halifax, Wayne and Edgecombe counties, but were canceled at 8:15 p.m. Authorities said cyclones could bring damaging winds in excess of 58 mph.

Submit your storm photos here.

Damaging winds were reported throughout the Triangle. Progress Energy said that 164 customers in Wake County were without power as of 7 p.m.

Late Sunday morning, a fast-moving storm cell prompted tornado warnings for Johnston, Wayne and Sampson counties.

Radar indicated signs of a tornado in the storm cell that moved from near Clinton along Interstate 95 through eastern Johnston County. The warning lasted from about 11:30 a.m. until shortly after noon. It was not clear if a tornado had touched down or if there was any damage.

A severe thunderstorm was also issued for Halifax County early Saturday afternoon.

The rain and clouds will clear out for the start of the work week Monday.

"It looks like tomorrow that will all be gone," said WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss. "We should see a lot of sun, a few filmy clouds coming in from the west at times and highs in the upper 50s to low 60s."

Fair weather will dominate again on Tuesday, but clouds will return on Wednesday. There's a shot at rain again Thursday.