Severe Weather—With Potential Tornadoes—Coming to NC Thursday. Here’s What You Need to Know.

The National Weather Service indicated the risk for tornadoes was highest southeast of the Triangle. (Image via NWS)

By Sarah Ovaska

March 17, 2021

Much of North Carolina is looking at bad storms Thursday, which could spin off tornadoes and damaging hail.

UPDATED: This article has been updated to reflect the shifting storm track to the south and east.

Strong tornadoes and hail the size of eggs could barrel through North Carolina on Thursday. 

Much of the state is facing dangerous weather, with a strong line of storms expected to make their way through the state. 

The Charlotte area, Piedmont, Triangle, and much of Eastern North Carolina are facing the biggest risk, with western counties beginning to see bad weather at 11 a.m. The central part of the state will see storms roll in at 12 p.m. Thursday, while 3 p.m. is when east of I-95 should start seeing storms, according to information put out Thursday morning by the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Center’s Storm Prediction Center, which ranks the danger of storm systems on a scale of 1 to 5, places much of the state at Level 3 Thursday.  Areas south and east of the Triangle to the coast and South Carolina border were at the greatest risk.

That’s a slight downgrade from Thursday, when the state was put at a Level 4 risk. North Carolina rarely gets a Level 4 risk. The last time the state saw it was in 2012, according to Elizabeth Gardner, a meteorologist with Raleigh’s WRAL television station.

Warnings Versus Watches 

You need to know the difference between tornado watches and warnings. Watches are the less severe (but still very much serious) of the two. They mean that a tornado is possible, and that people should pay attention to local radio and television for calls to seek shelter.

Tornado warnings are when you need to get safe, now. They mean a tornado has been spotted, or the conditions are ripe for one forming. 

Where to Go 

If tornadoes are coming, seek shelter in interior rooms, basements if possible, and stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. If you’re outside, don’t go underneath bridges. 

Stay safe, everyone. 


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