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Strong storms will be the bringers of Fall

Hard not to look at the headlines and see how much severe weather this latest storm has caused. Now, it comes to our neck of the woods. Thankfully of us, the setup for severe weather here today is much less impressive than has been the case to our west this week. But, when a system has already produced dozens of tornadoes, you can't help but be cautious heading into this afternoon.

Thursday got off to a stormy start as strong storms travelled across the Carolinas and organized into squall lines across the region. Thankfully they were not severe - but quite strong nonetheless. Take a look at the radar image from early this morning: 

You can see that the line that crossed into Columbus and then Brunswick Counties was very impressive on radar between 4 and 5 AM this morning. The storms were capable of heavy rainfall rates up to 1-2" per hour, just showing you how much tropical moisture was in the atmosphere. 

One interesting features with this morning's line of storms though was the profound lack of lightning with the cells. If they woke you up, it was because of the rain on your roof rather than cracks of thunder. On the image above you can pick out only 1 lightning strike west of Burgaw. There is a reason for this.

If you look at a cross-section of the cells in Brunswick County on our X-Vision technology, you can see that the storms were not very "tall". In other words, the height of the clouds in these storms is not what we would typically expect in storms of this strength. The development for ice crystals within clouds is very inportant to the formation of lightning, as the crystals are believed to aid in charge separation. In other words -- these clouds weren't high enough, and thus weren't cold enough, to generate widespread lightning like we may expect just looking quickly at the radar.

That doesn't mean that they weren't strong storms though. Reports in northern New Hanvoer County clocked winds gusting near 30 mph as the line passed through near ILM. Not only that, but some of the cells on the southern edge of the line appeared to show at least some indication of rotation at times.

This image captured by our Stormtrack 3 Radar shows a cell in southern Columbus County around 4AM this morning. The icon in the center of the storm means that our analysis of the storm indicates that it had rotational characteristics at the time. Looking at the radar echoes themselves, this makes meteorological sense. Rotational thunderstorms and tornadoes often display this type of structure which we often refer to as a "hook echo" structure. While this cell here did not appear to actually develop a tornado, it shows that rotating thunderstorms are possible in this system and gives us reason to watch very carefully this afternoon.

The morning thunderstorms were simply round 1 for the day as the cold front still lurks farther to the west. As long as we sit in the battle-zone between warm tropical air and cool Canadian air, we will run the risk for strong to perhaps severe storms across the area. The next line of storms should develop at some point this afternoon. Our Futurecast is indicating the greatest chance for storms again this afternoon will be in the late afternoon period, say around 4-5pm.


Once the front passes, it's Fall again here in North Carolina. Temperatures will plummet dramatically and struggle to get out of the sixties through the weekend. Overnight lows will even be scraping the 40 degree mark on Friday and Saturday nights. Bundle up at those football games!

Stay tuned throughout the day online and on twitter as we'll keep you posted on any thunderstorm development.

- TB


By: Tim Buckley