Durham cleans up after tornado; Triangle soaked with 6-inches of rain

rgallagher@newsobserver.com akenney@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2014 

— The National Weather Service determined Friday that an EF1 tornado, the second-weakest kind, landed 3 miles southwest of Durham on Thursday night.

Weather service investigators estimate that the storm produced winds of up to 90 mph, toppling trees into houses and roads. The storms dropped as much as 6 inches of rain in the Triangle, with the heaviest amounts falling in Orange County, parts of Durham County and eastern Wake County, according to the weather service.

The highest reported rain total in the Triangle was 7.89 inches in Garner, according to the weather service’s online reports from volunteer spotters and official stations. The station at Raleigh-Durham International Airport recorded a record rainfall for May 15 of 3.38 inches, well above the old record of 2.19 inches in 1934.

Fayetteville had an official 3.52 inches Thursday, topping previous record of 1.83 inches in 1930. The Charlotte and Asheville airports also had records for the date, the weather service said.

The worst storm damage was in Durham, where trees along Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Hope Valley Road showed evidence of being brought down by the twisting action of a tornado. Reports Thursday said trees had damaged homes on Alpine Road and Hemsworth Street.

Lu Esposito, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said three families had their homes damaged, and one needed Red Cross assistance to get shelter and food. The others were helped locally, Esposito said.

Durham County officials said all streets had been cleared of downed trees by late Friday morning. But downed power lines had knocked out several traffic signals, and police urged people to treat those intersections as four-way stops because there were too many for officers to direct traffic at all of them.

For most in the Triangle, Friday’s sunny skies and cooler temperatures made it easy to forget about the rain. Saturday will start with temperatures in the upper 40s in many places, before again climbing into the 70s under brilliant sunshine.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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