Above: Wake Forest resident Mike Reget captured this photo of the rotating wall cloud as it moved over Wake Forest. Reget was near the intersection of Rogers and Heritage Lake roads, Tuesday, when the system passed.
by Clellie Allen
WAKE FOREST — While rain and even thunderstorms were forecast to move through the area Tuesday afternoon and evening, severe weather was not on the list of things to expect.
But shortly after 6 p.m., on the heels of a weather statement concerning strong storms entering the area, the National Weather Service in Raleigh issued a tornado warning for northern Wake and southern Franklin counties. Doppler radar showed a potential tornado over Wake Forest moving east at 30 miles per hour.
Wake Forest Weekly photographer David Allen was heading to Wakefield TPC for a Rex Hospital Open event when he spotted a rotating wall cloud as he exited southbound Capital Boulevard onto Dr. Calvin Jones Highway.
“There were high winds buffeting my car. I looked up at the sky and saw the clouds spinning in a very odd way,” Allen said. “When I got up to Falls of Neuse Road, I looked back at the clouds and I could see the rotation very clearly resembling a developing tornado.”
Allen said at that point he heard the tornado warning on the radio and all he could focus on was getting to the Wakefield TPC clubhouse, where he felt like he’d be more safe.
“By the time I got to the clubhouse, I realized it was moving away from me and so I got out and started taking pictures. It was very surreal.”
According to more eyewitnesses, rotating clouds were spotted along an easterly/northeasterly track. Close to 6:20 p.m., another Wake Forest Weekly staff member, Anna Bolton, texted she could see tornado-like rotation in the clouds on North Main Street in Wake Forest headed toward Youngsville.
As the storm system moved out of the Wake Forest area, warnings were extended for Franklin and Nash counties with the area between Youngsville and Bunn along N.C. 98 specifically named as being in the potential path.
In Franklin County
Art Towne lives off of U.S. 401 right in that area, between N.C. 98 and Tarboro Road, just south of Wynfield Drive, where SKYWARN spotters reported an unoccupied doublewide mobile home was blown off its foundation and siding blown off of other homes.
Towne was at home with his wife when the storm blew up.
“I was sitting watching the news and it kept getting closer and closer. They said it was near 401 and 98 and I said, ‘Okay, Jeanine, it’s time to get in the closet,’” Towne said.
“She was going to get into the little pantry closet because it’s in the center of the home and I said, ‘Why don’t we get into the big closet and grab a pillow?’
“So we got in there and closed the door. And then boom — you could hear it and then all of a sudden it was gone. It was a matter of just a couple of seconds.”
Towne said the tornado sounded like high winds, rather than like the proverbial train. While he had little damage beyond tree limbs down, the tornado managed to suck a trailer from underneath a lean-to next to his barn and move it next to his house.
Other reports of damage came from nearby Tarboro Road, specifically the area near Harris Chapel Baptist Church and numerous trees and power lines were reported down on Clifton Pond Road. The storm system then continued on into Nash County.
As of press time, the National Weather Service had not yet confirmed whether or not to classify what took place as officially a tornado.
Become a storm spotter
The National Weather Service has established a volunteer program, SKYWARN, to train spotters on how to recognize and report severe weather events. These spotters provide essential information during severe local storms and help keep local communities safe.
Anyone with an interest in public service and who has access to communication like a cell phone or HAM radio can join the SKYWARN program.
Training is given through a local NWS Weather Forecast Office and covers:
•basics of thunderstorm development
•fundamentals of storm structure
•identifying potential severe weather features
•information to report
•how to report information
•basic severe weather safety
Classes are free and take about two hours.
The next SKYWARN basic spotter training is Tuesday, July 2, 7:30-9 p.m. at the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind, 3200 Bush St., Raleigh. To participate, contact Nick Petro at Nicholas.Petro@noaa.gov or call 919-515-8209.
Local groups and clubs can also contact Petro about hosting a local SKYWARN spotter training class.