Tropical Storm Warning expanded into Charlotte ahead of Zeta; many schools switch to 'remote' day

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Isolated flooding, wind damage, and tornadoes are possible Thursday in the Carolinas.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Tropical Storm Warning has been expanded in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County ahead of impacts forecasted Thursday from Zeta.

The warning, which had already been issued earlier Thursday for western parts of North Carolina and upstate South Carolina, has been expanded eastward to include more of the metropolitan area.

A Tropical Storm Warning means tropical-storm-force conditions are highly likely for Thursday.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the warning included but was not limited to: Mecklenburg, York, Cabarrus, Rowan, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Cleveland, Avery, Burke, Alexander, and McDowell counties.

Zeta’s Louisiana landfall

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Zeta was a category 2 hurricane making landfall south of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The tropical storm system is expected to maintain tropical storm strength as it moves quickly across the Southeast and through the Carolinas Thursday. This will be a quick-moving system which will keep the winds still relatively strong by tomorrow morning.

Wind impacts from Zeta in the Carolinas

A storm is considered to have tropical storm strength if it has sustained winds of over 39 mph. Gusts could be higher.

Morganton, Hickory, Lincolnton, Statesville, and Gastonia could be among the areas that see 30 to 40 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 50 mph. 

Higher, mountain elevations near Boone and Blowing Rock could see sustained winds of 25 – 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.

South of Interstate 85, including the City of Charlotte, Rock Hill, and Fort Mill, could see winds of 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

As a result, scattered power outages and down trees are possible as Zeta impacts the region a Thursday. 

Increased winds are expected to arrive in the early morning hours of Thursday before rapidly diminishing Thursday night.

Rain and flooding impacts from Zeta in the Carolinas

Zeta is forecast to bring 3 – 4 inches of rain to the higher elevations in the North Carolina mountains, including in Avery, Ashe, and Watauga counties. Rainfall totals decrease with elevation with 2 to 3 inches expected near Lenoir. Across the foothills and mountains, the National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch, which means flash flooding could occur over the next day.

In other parts of the foothills and piedmont, 1.5 to 2 inches of rain could be observed in Hickory, and upwards of one inch in Charlotte.

Although a tropical storm watch has not been issued for counties such as Mecklenburg, Avery, Ashe and Watauga, residents should monitor changing weather conditions over the next few days.

Tornado impact from Zeta in the Carolinas

And while Zeta’s strongest winds and highest rainfall rates are expected in the higher elevations of the Carolinas west of Interstate 77, there is a low risk potential for severe weather along the Interstate 77 and Instate 85 corridors Thursday.

Cities like Charlotte, Statesville, Columbia, and Greenville, could see an isolated tornado risk early Thursday morning through Thursday afternoon.

Across the Southeast and Carolinas, residents are encouraged to charge batteries, phones, and radios ahead of Zeta. Scattered power outages are possible Thursday.

LIST: Schools moving to remote learning or closing due to severe weather

  • Cabarrus County Schools will have a remote learning day for students on Thursday
  • Kannapolis City Schools will have a remote learning day for students on Thursday.
  • Lincoln County Schools will have a 3-hour delay Thursday for staff, and a remote learning day for students
  • Iredell-Statesville Schools will have a virtual day for students on Thursday, with an optional virtual day for staff. All staff will be expected to work virtually or report in person with caution or use appropriate leave if a shift must be missed. 
  • Gaston County Schools will have a remote learning day for all students and teachers on Thursday. Employees reporting in person may do so on a one-hour delay. 
  • Clover Schools will be closed on Thursday, with the exception of Clover Virtual Academy. A and B day students at middle and high schools have no required assignments, while Clover Virtual Academy will still hold virtual classes with no on-campus classes. February 15, 2021, will be used as an eLearning make-up day. 
  • Fort Mill Schools will be closing Thursday. This includes canceling virtual and distance learning classes as well as in-person activities. 
  • Alexander County Schools will operate a virtual learning day for students and an optional workday for staff Thursday, October 29.
  • Cleveland County will be a remote learning day for Cohort B students. This means schools will not hold any face-to-face classes on Thursday. Cohort B will resume face-to-face instruction on Friday

  • Hickory Public Schools will have a remote learning day for all students Thursday.

  • Catawba County Schools will have a remote learning day for all students Thursday 

  • York Co District 1 — All York School District One schools, offices, and York One Virtual Program will be closed on Thursday.

Stay informed of severe weather alerts

The WCNC Charlotte First Warn Storm Team will be monitoring weather conditions throughout Zeta. Download the WCNC Charlotte mobile news app to enable severe weather notifications for your location.

WCNC Charlotte encourages you to have multiple ways to receive severe weather notifications including our app, a NOAA weather radio, and access to television and radio broadcasts.

RELATED: Tropical Storm Zeta setting records this week

Hickory, Newton, Morganton, Statesville and Gastonia

  • WIND: Below tropical storm force winds between 30-40 mph with gusts to 50 mph. Winds are strongest between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • ACT NOW: Plan for hazardous wind of equivalent tropical storm force.
  • IMPACTS: Limited damage to porches, awnings, carports, sheds, and unanchored mobile homes. Unsecured lightweight objects, such as yard furniture, blown about. Many large tree limbs broken off. A few trees snapped or uprooted, but with greater numbers in places where trees are shallow rooted. Some fences and roadway signs blown over. A few roads impassable from debris, particularly within urban or heavily wooded places. Hazardous driving conditions on bridges and other elevated roadways. Scattered power and communications outages.
  • FLOODING RAINS: Potential for localized flooding rain. Rivers and tributaries may quickly rise with swifter currents. Small streams, creeks, canals, arroyos, and ditches may become swollen and overflow in spots. Flood waters can enter a few structures, especially in usually vulnerable spots. A few places where rapid ponding of water occurs at underpasses, low-lying spots, and poor drainage areas. Several storm drains and retention ponds become near-full and begin to overflow. Some brief road and bridge closures.
  • TORNADO: Potential for a few tornadoes. If your shelter is particularly vulnerable to tornadoes, prepare to relocate to safe shelter before hazardous weather arrives. If a tornado warning is issued, be ready to shelter quickly.

Charlotte, Rock Hill Fort Mill

  • WIND: Wind guests peaking 20 – 30 mph, with higher wind gusts the further north along the I-77 corridor. Winds are strongest between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday.
  • ACT NOW: Plan for strong wind gusts that could blow over outdoor furniture or decorations.
  • IMPACTS: Isolated power outages or localized road flooding, especially in the usual spots, is possible.
  • RAINS: Between half an inch, and an inch and a half, of rain are possible. Higher amounts the further north along the I-77 corridor. Localized flooding could be seen in low lying areas, and along small creeks and streams.
  • TORNADO: Strong to severe thunderstorms will be capable of producing isolated tornadoes capable of damaging trees and causing some structural damage. The timing for such storms begins early Thursday morning west of I-777 and moves eastward throughout Thursday afternoon.