Weather

Weak tornadoes hit Rolesville, Stantonsburg

Posted March 7, 2011 10:55 a.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 7:01 p.m. EST

— The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that weak tornadoes hit Rolesville in Wake County and Stantonsburg in Wilson County Sunday evening.

"All of a sudden, two storms kind of collided very quickly here in Rolesville, and a vortex spun up very quickly. It showed up on the radar and in 2 minutes, it’s literally gone off the radar," said Jeff Orrock, with the National Weather Service. "(It) maybe stayed on the ground a minute, but the overall damage path isn’t going to be that long."

A weak tornado whipped up around 6:15 p.m. southeast of Stantonsburg with wind speeds reaching 70 mph, weather service officials said. It blew through about a half mile of woods adjacent to farmland near Peacock Bridge Road. About 70 trees were twisted or snapped, but no other damage or injuries were reported.

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."

Shortly after 5 p.m., a tornado with winds between 70 and 75 mph touched down northeast of downtown Rolesville. It continued in a northeasterly direction for about two miles, weather service officials said. It lifted after crossing Highway 96. Numerous trees were snapped and buildings damaged on Main Street, officials said.

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, 85, was taken to WakeMed Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor burns. 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.

A greenhouse, several outbuildings, a church, a house and a car also sustained damage in the area, officials said. 

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

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.

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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.