LUMBERTON — Robeson County narrowly dodged the severe weather that pelted the South on Sunday and Monday, but experts say the threat of thunderstorms and hail will linger the next three days.
Plenty of rain, lightning, damaging winds and perhaps hail are possible in Robeson County through Thursday night, prompting the National Weather Service in Wilmington to issue a hazardous weather outlook for the area.
The warning comes after a series of tornadoes hit several eastern counties, including Beaufort, Chowan, Pasquotank and Perquimans on Friday, bringing wind speeds of more than 100 mph and prompting Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency for the damaged areas on Monday. An 11-month old Chowan County boy was killed and dozens of others in the area were injured. Reports say Beaufort County saw the most property damage.
On Monday, areas north of Red Springs and near Elizabethtown saw some golf-ball sized hail, but damage in those areas was limited as the worst of the storm passed to the west of Robeson County.
The weather system threatening North Carolina this week comes from the southern and central United States, where tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. At least 16 people were killed in the storms, which produced hail the size of baseballs and winds up to 75 mph in some areas.
Sandy Lacourte, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Robeson County residents don’t need to worry about storms that severe, but they should still be prepared.
“It’s better for people to be on alert … are we going to get exactly what Oklahoma did? The chances are a lot lower but just a few days ago there was a tornado in the Morehead City area,” Lacourte said.
Lacourte said both a warm front and a cold front are moving towards North Carolina, although temperatures in Robeson are expected to stay in the 60s, 70s and even low 80s. Coupled with an unstable atmosphere and strong winds, and the storm could do some damage.
“That’s all we need to really create a favorable environment for severe weather,” she said.
Lacourte expects scattered thunderstorms this afternoon that could worsen tomorrow.
Temperatures could climb to 82 degrees today. A moderate chance of severe thunderstorms today will persist overnight, when temperatures should stay above the mid-60s. The forecast for Wednesday and Wednesday night are largely the same.
“It could even linger into Thursday morning,” she said. “It’s such a slow-moving system, it’s become something we’re keeping an eye on.”
The chance of precipitation drops to 20 percent on Thursday night. Friday and Saturday should be perfect for outdoor activities, with plenty of sun and temperatures in the mid-70s.
Lacourte said in the meantime residents should pay attention to weather bulletins, and download a local weather station’s app so they can get alerts on their cell phones.
“If there’s a warning, take shelter,” she said. “I know a lot of people want to go out look for themselves but that’s not really a good idea.”