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Zeta will bring the threat of damaging winds, flash flooding and even isolated tornadoes to the Carolinas Thursday morning.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tropical Storm Zeta is expected to bring heavy rain, high winds and the threat of flash flooding to the Carolinas Thursday morning.
A Tropical Storm Warning was expanded in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Wednesday ahead of the storm. 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 6 a.m. Thursday, First Warn Forecaster Larry Sprinkle said the I-85 corridor from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Greensboro, North Carolina will likely experience the strongest winds, with sustained winds up to 40 mph possible. Charlotte could see sustained winds up to 35 mph and gusts approaching 50 mph.
The North Carolina mountains have the highest risk of flooding, with 4-6 inches of rain expected and some areas could see even higher totals. In Charlotte, the First Warn Storm Team expects up to 2 inches of rain.
“The main threat for flash flooding would be anywhere from Burke County, Caldwell County, all the way up to Ashe, Avery, and Watauga County,” said Sprinkle.
The heaviest rain will move into the Charlotte region around 7 a.m. and is expected to last until about 11 a.m., when those downpours will be moving toward Greensboro.
School districts across the area responded to the severe weather threat with choices to move to virtual learning for Thursday, with some closures as well.
Zeta’s strong winds, heavy rains leave hundreds of thousands without power in Georgia
As of 6 a.m. Thursday, Zeta has left nearly 500,000 people in metro Atlanta without power as the storm moves northeast toward the Carolinas. First Warn forecaster Larry Sprinkle says the I-85 corridor from Atlanta to Greensboro, North Carolina will be at risk for heavy rain, high winds and possible flash flooding.
The highest winds will be sustained of 30-50 mph and even stronger gusts.
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.
Caldwell County Schools — All schools will operate on remote instructional learning day for students on Thursday.
- American Renaissance Elementary School in Statesville — Asynchronous day
- Chester County Schools — All classes will be taught over eLearning on Thursday.
- Mooresville Graded School District — No in-person classes will be held. K-5 will have an asynchronous schedule, 6-12 is a synchronous schedule
- Burke County Schools – Thursday will be a remote learning day for all students and instructional staff.
- Victory Christian Academy in Gastonia will be closed Thursday
Preparing your homes
Arborists say there are two key factors homeowners should consider preparing for the high winds—checking the ground saturation and making sure large you tree canopies have enough space to allow air to move through and prevent a strain on the tree root.
“It may present as a fully healthy tree, fully leafed out but it’s that full weight that can aid in that tree uprooting,” ISA certified arborist Joshua Milbourne said.
With the potential for falling trees, Duke Energy says it’s also prepared for any possible power outages too.
“We have more than 2500 crews here in the Carolina that are here to respond to outages and emergencies if they occur,” Duke Energy spokesperson Meghan Miles said.
In addition, there are nearly 300 workers on standby from Duke’s Midwest territories as well if more help is needed. As for a potential flooding threat, Duke Energy has also lowered the lake level to accommodate the extra rainfall.
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.
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.