Supercell storms stir up trouble

Apr. 30, 2014 @ 06:50 AM

A hard-hitting storm system that has moved through the Southeast since Sunday is expected to hit the Carolinas full-force today.

John Tomko, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Greenville, S.C., said the system is “just crawling,” which means it has the potential for heavy rains and flooding.

“We also have a front that serves as a focusing point,” Tomko said. “Storms and precipitation thrive on lift (of air), and when you have a boundary like a front, you’re able to move moist air up over that boundary almost like you’re driving up a hill. It helps to develop storms.”

Tomko said that how bad the weather here will be is uncertain, but there are “a lot of ingredients in there that could pose a hazard to this area.”

The storm system has produced what meteorologists call “supercells,” which consist of an upward, rotating draft easily identifiable by the large anvil shape of the cloud formed at the top from the updraft. Because of the rotating updraft, supercells create prime conditions for tornadoes.

At least 34 people were killed Sunday through early Tuesday in an outbreak of twisters and other violent weather that pulverized homes in half a dozen states from Iowa to Tennessee, the Associated Press reported. A tornado watch was in effect in much of western North Carolina until 7 a.m. Tuesday, and a flash flood watch is in effect in Caldwell County until midnight tonight.

Tomko said that some of the worse things to do if there is tornado activity in the area include going outside due to curiosity and “trying to outrun a tornado in a car.”  

Kenneth Teague, assistant emergency management coordinator at Caldwell County Emergency Services, said Caldwell County has been hit by tornadoes before. To be prepared, residents should have a kit that includes 72 hours' worth of any daily medication and first aid supplies. They should also have “enough food for 72 hours that is easily prepared,” he said. As to where to go during a tornado, Teague said basements are best, a bathroom without windows, a hallway or a closet are also safe places to go. If none of these places are an option, residents should pull a mattress on top of themselves.

“If you are in a mobile home, even if the mobile home is tied down, you need to get out of the mobile home,” Teague said. “Try to get to a safe place like a low area, like a ditch, or a tornado shelter or a basement nearby and cover your head.”

Perhaps a larger concern in Caldwell County is the chance of flooding, especially flash floods.

“This could put down a lot of rain before this moves out,” Tomko said. “We could be getting four inches plus ... , and it could be in a short period of time.”

If you see flooding, wind damage, large hail or a tornado, report it to the Caldwell County Emergency Services and National Weather Services when it is safe to do so. You can reach Caldwell County Emergency Services at 828-757-1424. The National Weather Services can be reached at 1-800-267-8101.