NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- It was a scary sight for many who caught a glimpse of the sky over our area this afternoon. The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least one funnel cloud was spotted near UNCW and Wrightsville Beach.
The funnel clouds, though an alarming sight, did not produce any tornadoes. In response, UNCW sent out a tornado warning alert that has students and the National Weather Service wondering if it was warranted.
“It didn't seem like it affected many of the people because they were still out in the ocean and laying out,” said Colette Blake, a UNCW student.
Around 4:25 p.m. Monday, UNCW issued a tornado warning to faculty and students, alerting them to seek shelter and stay away from windows despite the National Weather Service never issuing a warning of their own.
“It might have been a little premature, but I think it's better than doing it too late,” says Lydia Strachan, a UNCW student.
About 20 minutes later, UNCW sent another alert giving the all clear. According to a UNCW spokesperson, the university chose to send a pre-scripted tornado warning instead of a custom message to alert students faster. However, some say the confusion and panic may not have been worth it.
“With parents having their students here, they could be freaking out too if they get the emails or see something,” Blake says. “So I feel like they do need to edit their emails before sending them out.”
Fortunately, the storm cell moved off shore and there were no touchdowns or reported damage, just Mother Nature putting on a show.
A forecaster from the National Weather Service says UNCW should not be sending out warnings unless it is first issued by the NWS.