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A tornado watch is in effect for central North Carolina as a dangerous line of storms threatens the region. Thousands of North Carolinians have already lost power.
“Please, if you don’t have to be out in the morning, don’t go to the grocery store, don’t go to the pharmacy, because it’s not going to be safe to be out and about between about 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.,” said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze. “Stay home and turn on WRAL, we want you to be safe.”
The entire viewing area is under a level 3, or enhanced, threat Monday morning, which means severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings are likely to be more persistent and widespread. A tornado watch was issued for the entire viewing area, including Wake, Durham, Chatham, Cumberland and Johnston counties, among others, until noon. All weather alerts.
Latest on severe weather:
6:50 a.m.: The tornado warnings in Durham and Alamance counties have expired.
6:45 a.m.: Tornado warnings are in effect for Person and Granville counties until 7:15 a.m. A tornado is on the ground just east of the Saxapahaw area. People in that area need to take shelter immediately.
6:40 a.m.: Tornado damage and debris is showing up on the radar south of Swepsonville, a town in Alamance County.
6:30 a.m.: Mebane is reporting that a tornado touched down. A tornado warning has been issued for parts of Durham and Chapel Hill and is in effect until 7 a.m.
6:20 a.m.: A tornado warning in effect for northern Orange County, which includes Hillsborough.
6:15 a.m.: A tree fell on Glenwood Avenue at T.W. Alexander Drive, blocking one lane. More than 100,000 customers in North Carolina are now without power, and hundreds of those outages are in Raleigh and Durham.
6:00 a.m.: A tornado warning has been issued for Yanceyville near the edge of Person County. WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said storms will pass over downtown Raleigh shortly.
5:45 a.m.: A tornado warning is in effect for parts of Alamance and Chatham counties until 6:15 a.m. The rotation was moving northwest very quickly at 60 mph. Large hail and strong winds as fast as 60 mph are likely.
5:30 a.m.: More than 1,000 have now lost power in the Triangle as strong winds and storms move closer to Raleigh.
5:00 a.m.: Around 64,000 customers had already lost power west of the Triangle. Winston Salem reported trees down and storm damage after a tornado warning was issued for the area, and UNC Greensboro tweeted out a warning to students.
Timing and threats
Timing — A strong line of thunderstorms will slowly cross the region Monday morning. Storms were in central North Carolina by 5 a.m. and could arrive in Durham and other western counties by 6 or 7 a.m. By 7 or 8 a.m., the storms will be headed for Raleigh and Fayetteville. At 9 a.m., Raleigh could be right in the middle of the storm. Conditions will improve by 10 or 11 a.m.
Tornadoes and more threats — The areas shaded in yellow have a 10% chance for strong tornadoes, EF-2 or greater. In the event of a tornado warning in your area, seek shelter in an interior room — a closet, a pantry, a bathroom — with no windows.
Widespread, damaging wind gusts are possible, with gusts ranging between 20-30 mph with the potential to reach 70 mph or greater at times.
Golf ball-sized hail is possible.
As much as an inch of rain will fall Monday morning, creating the possibility for isolated flooding. Even after the storms move out, soaked roots and soil could produce some downed trees.
Power outages could be widespread through Monday afternoon.
“This system will move out in the early afternoon, but windy conditions continue through the evening,” Maze said. The National Weather Service has posted a high wind advisory for much of the state, including Cumberland, Durham and Wake counties from 4 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday.
Prepare for a power outage
Gov. Roy Cooper sent out a press release Sunday afternoon urging North Carolinians to prepare for power outages and severe weather overnight.
People were encouraged to turn on weather radios or charge their devices before bedtime to make sure they can receive weather alerts in the middle of the night. Make sure your household knows where to gather to shelter in place if a tornado warning is issued. Keep batteries and flashlights handy and know how to report an outage to your power company. Sign up for WeatherCall.
The stay-at-home order will make grocery shopping more difficult once the severe weather is over. Prepare for power outages by having a cooler and ice ready to store refrigerated or perishable foods.
Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer if you keep the door closed. A half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours.
If you lose power, notify the utility company right away, officials said. Don’t rely on your neighbors to do it for you.