Mother Nature may have held back on the snowfall this winter, but she hasn’t been shy about bring the region plenty of rain. And on Wednesday, she upped the ante with a mixed bag of rain and wind that brought the threat of tornadoes to Bladen County.
The severe weather spun up the East Coast after more than 18 tornadoes ravaged the Deep South on Tuesday, killing three people and leaving devastation it their wake. Another four people, including a 2-year-old child, were reported killed when the storms swept through Virginia.
The Weather Channel predicted severe thunderstorms for central and eastern North Carolina for Wednesday, with a 60-percent chance of tornadoes in the region. Vance County saw that prediction come true when a tornado brought huge winds and damage.
Locally, cold front pushing up from the south brought a line of severe thunderstorms through Bladen County on Wednesday morning and caused power outages, flooding and brought trees down throughout the area.
The heavy rain began at about 10:30 a.m. and, shortly after, the National Weather Service in Wilmington issued a tornado warning for northeast Bladen County that ended peacefully at 11:30 a.m. Bladen County Schools, however, which had made the decision to release students at 11 a.m., were advised to hold students until the threat of severe weather subsided. The county’s Emergency Management gave Bladen County Schools the all-clear at 11:42 a.m.
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Bladen County from noon until 12:58 and, at 12:05, a second tornado warning was issued for the county that expired at 12:45 p.m.
At about that time, the skies cleared and brilliant sunshine emerged. But at 1 p.m., the downtown business district of Elizabethtown lost power for about an hour.
According to Duke Energy, power was also lost to about 1,755 customers around Elizabethtown, as well as spotty outages in Clarkton and Bladenboro. Four County Electric was claiming 15 customers in the county lost power. All customers had their power restored later Wednesday afternoon.
As of Thursday morning, a wind advisory was in effect for the area until about 2 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.