Multiple Microbursts Damage Central Burke County Friday Evening.

***Damage Survey Results***

Impacted: Morganton, Chesterfield, Worry Crossroads, Amherst.

The damage survey has been completed by personnel on the ground, by doppler radar, and by utilizing Goes-East to get storm heights. It has been determined that this damage was the result of straight line winds between 50 and 70+mph.

On Friday July 10th between 5:10pm and 6:00pm multiple microbursts struck central Burke County as a severe thunderstorm moved across the area. Doppler Radar indicated four microbursts with the first over Piedmont Road, the second over The Burke County Landfill, and the third over Amherst.

Friday’s storms should serve as a reminder to our communities that microbursts can be as damaging and deadly as tornadoes. It’s important to understand that wind is wind and it doesn’t have to be circulating to destroy personal items or worse, injure someone.

The first microburst was centered over Bost Road just North of the second intersection of Lost Corners Road. The storm responsible for this microburst reached a height of 55,000ft before collapsing. This microburst was measured using the KMRX Doppler Radar since KGSP Radar is down, so the data was slightly attenuated. Using the radar to look at the storm between 10,000 and 20,000ft though we could see the cold icy core descending toward the ground. At 10,000ft doppler radar indicated the core moving down through the atmosphere toward the ground at 40mph. The wind accelerated as it hit the ground and spread out in all directions. Damage on the ground indicates that the highest winds traveled North up Bost Road toward the Worry Crossroads and Northeast toward Piedmont Road. The damage swath also reached portions of the Chesterfield Community from Pax Hill, Heartland, and Hill Haven Drive. Damage was mainly limited to trees and powelines but one resident did advise they lost a couple of asphalt shingles off their hose near the site of where the microburst hit. A couple of trees were spotted that hit a couple of homes. Winds at the center of the microburst were estimated to be between 55 and 65mph and then weakened as they spread out from there. The video received from Belvedere Ln, 1.16 miles Northeast of the microburst, showed what we estimated to be 50-60mph winds. It is possible that an additional microburst caused the damage in the Chesterfield Community. Winds from the Bost Road Microburst likely wouldn’t have weakened and not done as much damage in Chesterfield. The ground team could not find a second centralized area of damage but a aerial survey wasn’t completed. A few softwood trees were damaged and lawn furniture was moved but no structural damage information was reported. The softwood trees were mainly limbs broken off but several white pine trees were uprooted.

The second microburst was recorded over the Eastern side of Morganton, just North of Kirksey Drive on NC 18-US 64. Ground survey teams were able to find what they believe to the impact point near the Catawba River Bridges and New Dimensions School. KCLT terminal doppler radar was the radar of choice on this microburst. The lowest beam from the terminal doppler passes over the northern part of Morganton at roughly 2,300ft. At 2,300ft radar estimated these winds to be in excess of 75mph but thankfully was centered where there were no structures. Extensive tree damage was done behind along and just North the Catawba River behind New Dimensions School. Winds spread out from there and The Burke County Emergency Management Mesonet recorded a wind gust of only 32mph at Burke County Emergency Communications. Terrain rapidly caused these winds to decrease. Neighborhoods near Walter Johnson Middle School had some spacial tree damage. The hardwoods were more uproots while the softwoods were broken off. A couple of Bradford Pear Trees were also uprooted, most likely due to their dense foliage.

The third microburst struck on the Southwest Side of Morganton initially on Sanford Drive at 5:37pm. There was a secondary microburst over Sanford, North Green, and into Downtown through Avery Avenue and around the newer courthouse. Using terminal doppler radar out of Charlotte and the ground damage survey team’s findings we determined this microburst likely was between 60 and 70mph. Most of the damage was to trees but some minor structural damage occurred to homes along Sanford Drive, North Green Street, and Avery Avenue. The damage that was reported was mostly to guttering and a few missing asphalt shingles. Trees were also down on a couple of homes. No injuries were reported that we are aware of.

The fourth microburst was likely the strongest of the day. Just prior to it the thunderstorm was able to grow back up to 56,000ft. Terminal doppler radar indicated winds in excess of 70mph at 2,300ft. We could not gain access to the landfill during the survey which is the suspected area of the epicenter. From there this microburst spread North and west from there. We await access and data from the Burke County Emergency Management Mesonet stations are the Burke County Landfill before completion of this survey.

These storms cause a lot of damage in the foothills this time of year. Last summer a microburst hit over at the Flea Market and Carbon City area that’s caused structural damage and damage to trees. This is why we want you to take every severe thunderstorm seriously.

Work continues on the Carolina Radar Project that would place three additional radars over the western piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. This will allow for even more accurate warnings in our area. A special thanks to the Councils of Government for assisting our committee with finding funding for this new radar project.


2020 FOOTHILLS ACTION  NETWORK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED                                                             OFFICE:    828-604-0435

632 COLLEGE DRIVE MARION NC 28752                                                                                                  PO BOX 8218 MORGANTON NC 28680