Severe weather possible at any time, always have a plan

In a typical year, more than 1,200 tornadoes occur throughout the country and nearly 12,000 reports of wind and hail are received from local law enforcement and the public.

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WILMINGTON – As spring time approaches with frequent glimpses of warm temperatures this winter, severe weather has been at the forefront across most of the country, from the devastating rainfall in California to the recent string of storms damaging the Midwest.

With an F-1 tornado recently touching down in Brunswick County, it’s always a good time to make sure you and your family is prepared in the event of severe weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has dedicated March 5-11 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

The National Weather Service wants you to have a plan in place for severe weather.
The National Weather Service wants you to have a plan in place for severe weather.

“The National Weather Service and its partners want to inform the public about a variety of severe weather hazards from tornadoes, to lightning, strong winds, and hail,” said Steven Pfaff, National Weather Service in Wilmington. “We encourage every family to develop a severe weather plan so that everyone in their household knows where to go if severe weather threatens where you live (lowest floor, in the center-most part of the house – put as many walls between you and the outside as possible).”

Severe weather in the United States causes numerous deaths and injuries and billions of dollars of damage. In a typical year, more than 1,200 tornadoes occur throughout the country and nearly 12,000 reports of wind and hail are received from local law enforcement and the public.

In southeastern North Carolina, much of the severe weather is centered on thunderstorms and lightning, high winds the possibility of tornadoes and flooding after heavy rains. Rips currents and heat related safety are also two other components residents and visitors to the area need to keep in the back of their mind as outdoor activities increase. And of course, hurricane season, which runs from June 1-Oct. 30.

A radar image showing a line of thunderstorms making its way to the Cape Fear coast. Image courtesy National Weather Service.
A radar image showing a line of thunderstorms making its way to the Cape Fear coast. Image courtesy National Weather Service.

From the destructive Reigelwood tornado nearly a decade ago, to the Landfall tornado in May 2016, and a funnel cloud that touched down in Rocky Point this past August, Pfaff reminds the community to take watches and warnings seriously during the year.

“We see two peaks of tornado activity in our area – the spring season which runs from the second half of March to the first half of June, and another peak in September associated with tornadoes that occur from the spiral bands from hurricanes and tropical storms,” Pfaff added. “This history tells us that our part of the country can experience a tornado at any time during the year and need to remain vigilant.”

Water Street looking north toward Market Street during Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Hannah Leyva.)
Water Street looking north toward Market Street during Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Hannah Leyva.)

On the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF0-EF5) 75 percent of tornadoes in the Carolinas are EF0-EF1 and they attribute to 5 percent of all tornado deaths. While 23 percent of Carolina tornadoes reach EF2-EF3, the number of fatalities associated with them jumps to 25 percent. In addition, 2 percent of all Carolina tornadoes reach EF4 intensity and they cause 70 percent of the tornado related fatalities.

Since records have been kept there has not been a single EF5 tornado to occur in the Carolinas.

Hail and severe wind are two other weather related events prevalent to Wilmington. Most of the hail the area receives is from pea to dime size, according to Pfaff.

The bulk of the severe thunderstorm wind reports typically occur between day time hours, with the last big microburst event in Wilmington on July 23, 2015, with another strong one that damaged just under 100 homes in the Ogden/Murrayville area on May 31, 2003.