Home Local News BREAKING NEWS: Severe Weather Torments Richmond County; Funnel Clouds Spotted

BREAKING NEWS: Severe Weather Torments Richmond County; Funnel Clouds Spotted

A funnel cloud emerges along US Highway 220 North near Exit 23 at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Biddix.

RICHMOND COUNTY – In a week that has seen the powerful demonstrations of Mother Nature devastate several regions across the country, residents of Richmond County experienced their own “perfect storm” late Friday afternoon and early evening. 

As Hurricane Harvey ravished the metropolitan Houston, Texas, and surrounding southeast Texas coast for the better part of the past week, the remnants of the storm migrated northeast into the Carolinas Friday and made its presence felt.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch early Friday for Richmond and several neighboring counties until 10 p.m. With nearly one third of North Carolina under the severe weather watch, Richmond County found itself in the middle of potentially looming tornadic activity. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Richmond County Friday evening.

In conjunction with Harvey’s arrival, the Sandhills region experienced its own unique set of storm systems. The Richmond Observer’s managing editor Kyle Pillar reached out to Nick Petro of the National Weather Service in Raleigh/Durham, with all information as current as 10 p.m.

Petro, who is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist, informed Pillar that there was a lot of speculation surrounding the weather in the region today, including possible tornadoes. But he set the facts straight in a phone call with Pillar.

“Today’s events amounted to (several) funnel clouds,” Perto said. “But they never touched down, and never became tornadoes. A funnel cloud has to touch the ground in order to be classified as a tornado.”

Severe storms ravished the region, as booming thunder, gusting winds and pelts of rain descended in strong bands which moved eastward from the west.

Photo of Friday’s storm clouds submitted by Richmond Observer contributor Chuck Thames.

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Around 2:30 p.m. a funnel cloud was spotted along Highway 220 North near the current construction site of Exit 23 near Dockery Road. According to eyewitness accounts, the funnel cloud emerged from the sky and looked like a tornado, but Petro confirmed that it was just a funnel cloud since no debris or damages were reported.

“The storms (Friday) weren’t strong enough to extend to the ground,” Petro said. “I’m basing that off the fact that I have not received one single damage report from anywhere in Richmond County.

“What we had today was an interesting setup,” Petro continued. “We had plenty of humidity, plenty of warmth, which are two basic ingredients of thunderstorm production. There was also a very vigorous wind field present with the remnants of Harvey passing by to our west. That provided enhancement to the production of the wind fields of these storms.”

Tornadoes aren’t a common occurrence in Richmond County, but the area has seen two Fujita scale registered storms since the start of the new millennium. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s website, on Sept. 27, 2004, a F0 magnitude touched down in Plainview, N.C., which is located in the northern part of the county. The largest magnitude storm in recent record, an EF1, caused $100,000 in property damages in Diggs, N.C., on May 14, 2012.

Pillar reached out to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol division in Hamlet, N.C., and was informed that there, “were no major reports of accidents or downed powerlines” as a direct result of the severe storms. The Richmond Observer will continue to keep contact with NCDPS for any future reports. 

At the time of this publication, Pillar was awaiting information from Richmond County Emergency Services Director Donna Wright. Also, the NWS reported that there is still a severe weather threat for the Richmond County area late Friday night into the early morning hours of Saturday.

For more information on preparing for severe weather, or how to plan for action if a tornado were to occur, visit the NWS’ website at www.weather.gov.

Please stay tuned to www.richmondobserver.com and our Facebook page for more updates.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.