A fast-moving storm is hitting the Triangle Thursday morning, bringing hail, rain and high winds to the area.
The storms are being created as a cold front and low pressure system collide. The conditions are severe enough to even spawn a tornado, National Weather Service forecasters said.
As a precaution, schools in Johnston, Harnett, Wayne, Wilson and Edgecombe counties delayed classes, so severe weather can pass before students head to school.
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The NWS issued a tornado watch across more than 35 counties in central and eastern North Carolina through 1 p.m.
The storm is moving in a northeast direction through the Piedmont and onto the coastal plain, NWS meteorologist Scott Sharp said.
“This stuff is moving toward the northeast at upwards of 60 miles per hour,” Sharp said. “You can’t rule out the possibility of an isolated tornado, but I think the main threats right now are going to be hail and high winds.”
The NWS has already received reports of nickel-sized hail from Durham and other places south of the Triangle.
While the possibility of an isolated tornado can’t be ruled out, Sharp said the main threats Thursday are hail and high winds. He said the threat of storms is expected to taper off near Raleigh by 10 a.m., and by places east like Halifax and Rocky Mount by 11 a.m.
For those with mobile devices Thursday, officials recommend enabling Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) messages so authorized government authorities can alert people of severe weather.
In other parts of the state and in South Carolina severe thunderstorm watches are in effect, and high wind warnings were in effect in the mountains of North Carolina. A special marine warning was issued for much of the South Carolina coast, warning residents and boaters of waterspouts that can overturn boats and produce dangerously high waves.
As the storms begin to leave the area by mid-morning, winds are expected to continue for much of the day, Sharp said.
“We should see wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour this afternoon unto this evening,” he said. In many areas that will see severe weather Thursday morning, a wind advisory is in effect until midnight.
After the stormy weather passes, forecasters at the National Weather Service called for sunny skies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.