Wind-packed storms that swept across Johnston County Wednesday afternoon left people under the belief the area around downtown Smithfield was hit by a tornado.
Photos posted online, showing multiple downed trees and structural damage to buildings near 5th Street and N.C. 301, did little to suggest otherwise.
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Local weather experts, however, said it was simply strong winds that tore through the area.
On Wednesday night, ABC11 chief meteorologist Chris Hohmann said it appeared wind speeds may have reached up to 70 mph during the storm.
The National Weather Service Raleigh office had warned of the potential for winds of 60 mph, the threshold for issuing a warning. Meteorologist Ryan Ellis agreed the winds were in the ballpark of 70 mph, and said a tornado was not to blame.
“Based on radar and what was going on yesterday, it was definitely not a tornado,” Ellis said. “We’re very confident that was straight-line winds.”