May 23: Strong Storms Possible Today

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It’s been an unseasonably warm and unseasonably wet month of May so far in central North Carolina, a pattern that will continue through the holiday weekend and into the last few days of the month. Today’s storm threat comes along with a borderline threat of severe weather — the Storm Prediction Center has included most of central North Carolina in a “Marginal Risk” (level 1 of 5) for severe weather:Those storms will develop in a warm, muggy and unstable environment…temperatures will reach the mid to upper 80s this afternoon, ahead of the best thunderstorm chance:The first storms will pop up along the Virginia state line by early to mid-afternoon, then progress southward to the Triangle by rush hour, and into south-central North Carolina throughout the evening. That pattern is shown here by the North American model’s radar simulation:The fact that the storms will move (instead of camping out like Monday’s storms) will help reduce the flooding threat. Still, some parts of central North Carolina have seen 3″-5″ of rain over the last 48 hours, so just a brief period of heavy rain could cause some high-water concerns. Damaging winds and hail will also be possible in the strongest storms:Overall, a Marginal Risk means that we expect numerous storms, a few of which could prompt severe thunderstorm warnings.

We’ll get a little break from the highest rain chances on Thursday and Friday — temperatures will warm up to the upper half of the 80s each day:Even then, we can’t rule out an isolated shower either day, with the best chance in the Sandhills and near Fayetteville.

The increasing rain chances over Memorial Day weekend will be caused by a developing tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico. The latest outlook from the National Hurricane Center estimates a 60% chance that the disturbance strengthens into a tropical depression between now and Sunday:The European forecast model’s estimate is also just above 50%:Regardless of whether it develops into a tropical depression, the center of the disturbance is going to stay hundreds of miles to our southwest…but that’s close enough for the counter-clockwise flow around it to send waves of moisture toward central North Carolina throughout the weekend:It won’t rain everywhere all of the time, so I wouldn’t cancel any outdoor plans for the holiday weekend…but be flexible with those plans, and have an indoor alternative ready-to-go. If you’re heading to the beach, know where to go if there’s lightning in the area — open areas are the last place you want to be around cloud-to-ground lightning. We’ll keep you updated as the weekend gets closer!


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