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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A “massive storm system” is headed to the Carolinas and across the Southeast Sunday night into Monday morning, said WCNC Charlotte Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich.
The severe weather outbreak, which will begin in portions of Texas Saturday moving moving east on Sunday and Monday, brings a high chance of damaging winds. The storm system also contains a risk of tornadoes and flooding.
“This time of year, you have dynamic storms in April,” Panovich explained. “You have the crossover of the strong winds associated with the winter time jet streams – and the springtime heat and humidity. When those two meet up, we get massive severe weather outbreaks.”
When you wake up Sunday morning, scattered rain will already have arrived in Charlotte and across the Carolinas. Rain will continue throughout the day on-and-off with some breaks.
During the day on Easter, the threat of damaging severe weather remains to our west: in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
As we head through the day Sunday, winds will begin to increase.
“Once the warm front lifts north of us we will ramp up the instability and drive in more moisture that looks to start the day Monday with some significant storms,” said meteorologist Chris Mulcahy.
By 1 a.m. Monday morning, the first line of heavy rain and winds are expected across the western North Carolina mountains, including places like Asheville, Boone, and Blowing Rock. Winds could exceed 50 mph.
“The wind energy is crazy with this system,” Panovich said. “It goes bonkers by Monday morning.”
By 4 a.m., the heavy rain and wind move across the Piedmont and into Charlotte.
“One thing I can tell you for sure with my highest confidence: we’re going to see widespread damaging winds,” Panovich explained.
“It will only take less than a minute for there to be damage from these possible damaging straight-line winds,” Mulcahy added. “With the preceding rain on Sunday, our soils will be saturated. This will enhance our risk for downed and uprooted trees across the area.”
Winds speeds could climb into the 50 or 60 mph range. If the wind were to gust at 74 mph or stronger, it would be as strong as a category one hurricane.
“Tornadoes are like pins. They’re tiny on a map. Compared to the giant swath of damaging winds,” Panovich said. “It’s like a paint roller [across the region].”
Even higher winds would be possible inside thunderstorms and with any potential tornadoes.
“We will likely have what is called a QLCS (Quasi-linear convective system) roll through,” Mulcahy explained. “This means a majority of the line will be a line of strong winds but the “kinks” in the line will allow for brief tornadoes to form and spin down to the surface.”
While the chance of seeing a tornado remains around 5%, any potential, scattered tornado could bring damage. Whenever numbers are above 1.0 on the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP), there is a chance for EF2 tornadoes or higher, according to Mulcahy.
“Right now, we are ranging from 1-5,” Mulcahy said Saturday morning. “This has stayed consistent and ideally, we hope this number goes down by tomorrow. This is very high and we have to be prepared for this scenario Monday morning.”
For comparison, the tornado that caused damage across south Charlotte in February was determined to be an EF1.
FROM FEBRUARY: NWS confirms EF-1 tornado in south Charlotte
The chance of severe weather only begins to move out and decrease after 11 a.m. Monday.
The exact timing of the severe weather could change as the forecast continues to develop. Timing changes could trend the chances of severe weather up or down.
Either way, now is the time to prepare. Charge your phone. Find your flashlights. And make sure you have multiple ways to receive severe weather bulletins, including options like a NOAA Weather Radio or the WCNC app that will make sound and alert you while you’re sleeping.
Pro tip: Consider NOT putting your phone on Do Not Disturb when you go to sleep Sunday. This way you will hear calls or apps alerting you to any potential severe weather.