Tornado touches down in New Hanover County

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A map from the National Weather Service in Wilmington showing the path of Thursday's EF1 tornado.
A map from the National Weather Service in Wilmington showing the path of Thursday’s EF1 tornado.

Update, 10 p.m.:

An EF1 tornado with estimated maximum wind speeds of 95 miles per hour touched down in the northeastern part of New Hanover County on Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Wilmington confirmed.

According to the NWS, the funnel cloud first touched down at 2:28 p.m. in Landfall near Arboretum Drive and Fair Lakes Drive. Several trees were uprooted, and limbs that were ripped off trees caused damage to a home on Dundee Lakes Place

As it moved northeast, it crossed Howe Lake and moved into the Timber Creek neighborhood, where it blew over more trees. One injury was reported in that area as a result of falling tree limbs.

The tornado, which was estimated to have a maximum width of 75 yards, then crossed Middle Sound Loop Road, where it caused extensive damage to homes on Wellington Drive and East Bedford Road. Dozens of trees, some with trunks up to two feet in diameter, were snapped or uprooted.

The twister left the area around 2:35 p.m. near East Bedford Road and Middle Sound Loop. Its path was approximately 1.75 miles long. Based on the areas of concentrated damage, they do not believe the tornado stayed on the ground the entire time, but touched down and lifted up several times along the way.

No deaths were reported as a result of the severe weather event.

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The National Weather Service in Wilmington is investigating a tornado that hit the Middle Sound Loop area of New Hanover County around 2:30 on Thursday afternoon.

According to NWS Wilmington Science Officer Reid Hawkins, his office has seen video footage of a funnel cloud that formed between the Landfall and Middle Sound Loop neighborhoods. Trees and power lines were downed in those areas and in nearby Ogden, and several power outages were reported.

Rotating wall cloud. Photo by Johnathan Vaughan, courtesy of NWS Wilmington.
Rotating wall cloud. Photo by Johnathan Vaughan, courtesy of NWS Wilmington.

“We are definite that it was a tornado,” Hawkins said. “Our survey team is out there now to assess the damage and find out how strong it was, how wide the funnel was and how long its path was.”

Early evaluations show winds could have been as high as 90 miles per hour, making it a category EF1 tornado on the Fujita scale, which measures tornado intensity. The scale goes from 0 to 5, with 0 being the weakest and 5 the strongest.

Witnesses also reported straight-line winds in the area, which differ from the rotating winds found in funnels. Hawkins said those kinds of winds, which are also very damaging, sometimes occur before or after a tornado.

The area was not under any watches or warnings for thunderstorms or tornados Thursday, according to Hawkins, though meteorologists had predicted scattered thunderstorms in the area. The squall that caused the tornado entered the area in the early afternoon and exited not long after.

“The stuff that caused this has already moved off to Jacksonville and Carteret County,” Hawkins said just before 4 p.m. Thursday. “It’s not a solid, continuous line of storms. It’s pretty scattered.”

That was evident in the amount of rainfall reported in different areas. According to Hawkins, one to two inches of rain had fallen Thursday afternoon in northeastern part of New Hanover County, where the tornado hit, and southeastern part of Pender County, in the Hampstead area. Wilmington International Airport, however, registered just .49 inches in that same period of time. He also noted that some parts of Brunswick County recorded no rain at all.

NWS Wilmington also received reports of small, half-inch hail in some parts of their service area, but the pea-sized hail was not big enough to do any damage.

Hawkins said he did not anticipate any more dangerous storms the rest of the day; forecasters are predicting a 30 to 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms Friday.

The weather survey team is expected to have results on the tornado after sundown on Thursday. Check back for updates in this ongoing story.