Severe Thunderstorms Rip Through Orange County

Severe thunderstorms ripped through Orange County and much of the rest of central North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon.

A Tornado Warning was issued for Chapel Hill and Durham until 5.

While stormed may have passed Orange County, debris remains scattered on roadways.  There were also reports of fallen trees and possibly fallen power lines.

Several Twitter users shared images to @WCHLChapelboro.

Severe thunderstorms hit much of North Carolina Wednesday afternoon.  Orange County and the surrounding areas went under a tornado warning around 3:40 PM.  The warning was expected to last until at least 4:15 in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Hillsborough.  It was extended for several areas, including Orange and Durham Counties, until 5 PM.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was also issued for much of Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties until 4:45 PM.  But, Orange County residents began to see blue skies again by that time.

Always a welcome sight in Chapel Hill. #carolinablue

A photo posted by WCHL & Chapelboro (@wchlchapelboro) on

The threat of severe weather forced school systems in the area to adjust their schedules.

Many schools in the area held students after hours due to storm threats.  That included Chapel Hill High School, according to their student newspaper The Proconian.

UNC students also took shelter inside academic buildings on campus.

Durham Public Schools released three hours earlier than their normal dismissal time.  Wednesday was already a planned early dismissal day in Durham, but previously the release time was scheduled to be only two hours earlier than normal.  All after-school activities were cancelled.  Wake County Public School System schools also closed 3 hours early.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools cancelled after-school activities.

All Chatham County Schools after-school activities and field trips were cancelled. 

Katie Dedeaux, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told WCHL's Blake Hodge that wind damage is expected, "I wouldn't be surprised to see some strong winds coming through Orange County."

This is the same system that led to severe damage and even fatalities in Louisiana and Mississippi, although it is now in a "slightly weakened state," according Dedeaux.

Orange County and much of the Triangle was located in the "moderate risk" portion of the National Weather Service's map.  This meant widespread severe weather with several tornadoes and/or numerous severe thunderstorms was likely.

 That map was updated from Wednesday morning.  Previously, the biggest areas of concern were east of the Triangle.

NWS: Expect At Least 2-4 Inches Of Rain By Sunday

The unpredictability of Hurricane Joaquin makes the forecast uncertain, but National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sharp says Orange County should expect about 2-4 inches of rain between now and Sunday.

That includes steady rain on Friday and Saturday with spottier rain on Sunday – both from Joaquin and from another system that’s also threatening North Carolina. (Sunday’s weather will hinge more heavily on the hurricane’s track.)

Four inches of rain isn’t as much as other parts of the state are expecting to receive, but it’s still more than enough to create the threat of flash floods, downed trees, and other dangers. Orange County is under a flash flood watch from now through 8:00 Sunday evening. Orange County Commissioners declared a state of emergency on Thursday night, following Governor Pat McCrory’s decision to declare a state of emergency for the entire state earlier in the day.

And Sharp says the danger won’t necessarily end when the rain does: there’s also the potential for flooding rivers and streams early next week, as all the rainwater washes into the waterways.

Listen to Sharp’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday.


For now, the town of Chapel Hill is going forward with plans for Festifall on Sunday afternoon. Town officials will receive an update from the National Weather Service at 11:00 Friday morning, though, and organizers will make a decision after that whether to cancel the festival. Festivals and Community Celebrations Supervisor Amanda Fletcher says the wind is actually as big a factor as the rain: if the wind is blowing faster than 20 miles an hour, the festival’s tents won’t be safe. (The forecast currently calls for blustery weather on Saturday, but Sunday – again – is still uncertain.)

Listen to Fletcher’s conversation with Aaron Keck on Thursday.


Fletcher says that as far as she knows, Festifall hasn’t been cancelled due to weather in the past – and certainly not due to the threat of a hurricane.

The last major flood Chapel Hill faced was on June 30, 2013, when the town saw five inches of rain fall in the space of a couple hours. The forecast for this weekend’s storm isn’t quite as bad – but Joaquin’s effect is still yet to be determined.

Expect A Tenth Of An Inch Of Ice Tuesday Night

With the threat of freezing rain in the forecast, Orange County is under a Winter Weather Advisory from 7:00 Tuesday evening through noon on Wednesday.

“Temps are going to drop through the evening, down around freezing by 9:00 or so,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Ellis. “Initially that won’t cause a problem, but as precipitation starts…you’ll start to see the first impacts around midnight or so, (with) glazing on overpasses and bridges first…

“As precipitation increases after midnight, expect to start seeing travel impacts on the roadways (through) the morning commute.”

Ellis says it’s not yet clear how much precipitation is going to fall, but forecasters expect about a tenth of an inch of ice. Ellis describes the expected impact as “low to moderate” – road conditions will be treacherous, especially during the morning commute, but there shouldn’t be many power outages or downed trees.

“The worst case scenario would probably be two-tenths of an inch (of ice),” Ellis says. “The best case scenario is that the precipitation doesn’t make it as far north – and if we don’t get a lot, we could see very limited impacts with maybe just patchy ice on bridges and overpasses.”

Still, even a small amount of ice is enough to cause havoc on the roadways. “Last week in Sampson County…they had a very brief period of very light drizzle and rain, and they had 17 cars off the road within a couple hours,” Ellis says. “It doesn’t take much with the ice.”

So when will the ice go away? Ellis says it shouldn’t be long: the precipitation should end around 10:00 Wednesday morning, and temperatures will rise above freezing around then as well.

“Once the temperatures warm back up…you get cars traveling over the road (and) things heat up a little better,” Ellis says. “So we don’t anticipate impacts beyond Wednesday morning.”

Continue to check for updates on the weather, as well as any school and business closings, cancellations or delays.

Storm Tonight Will Drop Heavy Rain, Tornado Possible

A major storm system is likely to hit the Triangle tonight, with meteorologists predicting heavy rain, heavy wind, and maybe even an isolated tornado.

National Weather Service meteorologist Katie Dedeaux says the heaviest rain will come in the late evening and overnight hours – and because it’s a slow-moving storm, there’s a greater likelihood of flooding as the rain will linger longer.

Dedeaux says the area will see at least an inch of rain, with some areas seeing as much as two inches. And the danger is heightened, she says, because the storm is moving through at night. “It’s one of the most dangerous times to have any severe weather,” she says, “because people are in bed and less aware of what’s going on.”

Dedeaux spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL Tuesday afternoon.


Dedeaux says the storm should move out of the area sometime around noon on Wednesday, with nice weather expected for the weekend.

Orange County to Host Storm Spotter Training

A Skywarn Spotter Training course will be coming to Orange County this fall, courtesy of the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

On September 23, county residents can attend a free training class on how to spot weather emergencies and report them to weather services. Trained meteorologists will be instructing how to detect weather emergencies such as thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes.

The class will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the West Campus Office Building in downtown Hillsborough. There are no costs, prerequisites or pre-registration needed to attend.

Emergency Management Planner at Orange County Emergency Services, Josh Hollingsworth says the course is very useful for severe weather seasons in North Carolina, such as hurricane season in the spring as well as the possibility of winter storms later this year.

“The training is very important because the citizens, of course, can protect themselves by being able to spot severe weather but they can also relay this information to the National Weather Service,” Hollingsworth said. “When people report the severe weather, (the National Weather Service) is able to add that into their warning or verify that the warning is warranted for the area.”

Slow-Moving Storms Pose Biggest Threat To Stormwater System

Does your heart skip a beat during a downpour and make you wonder how long it will last? Last year’s flood may have heightened your senses to that.

With the potential for rain and thunderstorms through Friday, Chapel Hill stormwater management engineer Sue Burke says the only time the storm water system could be tested is if severe thunderstorms drop high amounts of rain in a short period of time.

“When we’ve had what we call high-intensity-short-duration storms, which means the rain is coming down at a really high rate over a very short period of time, the water then has trouble getting down into the storm drain system there’s just so much of it,” Burke says.

The Town saw 0.66 inches dropped on it Monday. It was spared the same storm Durham saw, which flooded some parts of the city after more than an inch of rain was reported at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Some area’s may have seen more due to the trend National Weather Service Meteorologist Nick Petro says would present the biggest problems.

“The main concern will be poor-drainage flooding as any of these heavy showers are going to move slowly,” Petro says. “There not a whole lot of wind in the atmosphere. So, these things, when they move, they’re going to move very slowly, and they’ll have the potential to dump a lot of rain over any given area.”

Thursday and Thursday night come with the greatest chances of rain and thunderstorms at this point—although the chance of precipitation tops out at 50 percent during the day. The National Weather Service is predicting less than a tenth of an inch of additional rainfall each day, unless a severe storm hits.

Last year, more than two and a half inches of rain fell in the four days leading up to June 30 when 5.12 inches fell in less than 20 hours. Some Chapel Hillians remember that as the worst flood in some 30 years.

Current Forecast

Arthur To Sea; Clear Skies For Fireworks

Hurricane Arthur has made its way to sea, but not before it took the worst possible path for the Outer Banks.

“With the motion of the storm–in addition to the winds–the resulting wind is even strong on the right side of the storm,” says National Weather Service Meteorologist Katie Dedeaux. “That is the side that pounded the Outer Banks this morning.”

***Dedeaux Spoke with WCHL’s Ron Stutts Friday Morning***

Arthur made landfall at 11:51 p.m. Thursday as a category 2 storm with maximum wind gusts of 101 miles per hour. By the 5:00 a.m. update, the storm had sped up to 23 miles per hour heading north-northeast with the help of the jet stream.

Dedeaux says the cold front that moved through the Triangle Thursday night–which also helped move Arthur out of North Carolina quickly–will set up great weather for fireworks at Kenan Stadium Friday.

“We’re going to have some drier and cooler air coming in,” Dedeaux says. “We’re still going to have highs in the mid-80s today, but we’re going to feel noticeably drier than we have in the past couple of days. And actually tonight is going to be very pleasant; we might have lows into the low-60s tonight.”

For your complete forecast, click here.

To check on Hurricane Arthur, click here.

Should You Change Your Eastern N.C. July 4 Plans?

National Weather Service meteorologist Kathleen Carroll says Tropical Storm Arthur is on track to becoming the season’s first hurricane by Thursday morning and could affect your weekend plans in eastern North Carolina, if those plans include an early start to the weekend.

“Over the next day or two, it will be moving North towards North Carolina, and we should see some impacts with that beginning late Thursday and then overnight Thursday night,” Carroll says.

***Carroll Spoke with WCHL’s Ron Stutts Wednesday Morning***

However, Carroll says the storm could be out of the way in time for fireworks.

“It definitely will be a rainy and potentially breezy day on Thursday, but it looks like the Fourth of July–at least in the evening hours when everybody will probably be enjoying fireworks and barbeques–current timing has that tropical system moving off to the northeast by the afternoon hours,” Carroll says.

If you’re staying put for fireworks at Kenan Stadium, Carroll says Arthur is unlikely to play a big factor in the Triangle.

“For that area, we may not even see that great of an impact from the system itself,” Carroll says. “Winds really wouldn’t be a whole lot stronger than anything we normally see, because the system’s expected to stay closer to the coast. We will probably see a bit more rain, but that will be, in part, due to a frontal system that’s going to be approaching kind of sandwiched between the tropical system off the coast.”

For the latest forecast and tropical storm track, click here.

If Heat is Your Thing … Enjoy Your Week!

If you like it hot, then you’re going to just love the Triangle weather for the next seven days.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Strickler says it’s going to be steamy all week, with a very slight respite coming during the weekend into early next week.

But even then, don’t expect temperatures to dip below 90.

“Well, we’ve got forecasts of about 96, 97 in Raleigh and Chapel Hill for Wednesday and Thursday,” says Strickler. “And then for Friday, we’ve got 95, and then dropping back to about 93, 94.”

That’s quite a bit hotter than it was last year at this time, Strickler says.

“For 2013, we had 94 degrees observed on the 13th of June, and that was the hottest temperature of the entire month for Raleigh last year” says Strickler. “And otherwise, during the same period last year for the middle of June, we were in the eighties. So we’re a good 10, perhaps 15 degrees above what we experienced at this time last year.”

Strickler says the record for Tuesday was 99 degrees, and we were a little shy of that. The record for Wednesday was 98 degrees.

Back in the mid-1940s, record temperatures for this coming weekend reached up into the 100s.

If record heat is what you’re looking for, Strickler says you should keep your fingers crossed until Friday. But Strickland says he’s hoping to see another temperature record broken from back in the 1960s.

“Personally, I’m hoping for some record lows, which are in the upper 40s through around 50 for this time of years,” says Strickler, “but no hope for that.”

Flash Flood Watch

Less than one year ago, heavy rains flooded Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Are we in for another round this week?

National Weather Service senior forecaster Scott Sharp says the possibility for flooding is certainly out there.

“The showers and storms today will just prime the pump for additional showers and thunderstorm activity we’re expecting later (Tuesday) and more so during the day on Wednesday and Wednesday night,” Sharp says. “We’re looking at rainfall totals during the course of the day today and early this evening probably anywhere from a quarter to maybe a half an inch across the Triangle. The highest potential for heavy rainfall will be late (Tuesday) through Wednesday into Wednesday evening as we pick up an additional inch to maybe two inches of rainfall during that time period.”

***Listen to the Interview***

More than seven inches of rain fell on Chapel Hill-Carrboro on and around June 30. Bolin Creek overflowed flooding East Gate shopping center, Camelot Village apartments, Chapel Hill Town Hall, Granville Towers and many other places.

A flash flood watch is in effect from Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. until Thursday at 6:00 a.m.

“We are expecting the weather conditions to start to improve by Thursday–maybe after lunchtime or so,” Sharp says. “It looks like right now Friday into Saturday it looks like we should see much better, more tranquil weather conditions during that time.”

Remember: a watch means flooding is possible; a warning means flooding is happening or imminent.