Hurricane Nate: A look back at the impacts here in Western North Carolina

Hurricane Nate made landfall along the Gulf Coast last weekend as a Category 1 Hurricane (85 mph sustained winds), unfortunately Nate accelerated northeast from the Gulf and its remnants impacted a large portion of the Southeast US including here in the Western Carolinas with heavy rainfall, gusty winds and multiple tornadoes…here is a look back at what Nate brought to our coverage area last Sunday…





The first concern we as forecasters had with Nate was in regards to heavy rainfall. Granted, our coverage area was in the midst of a dry spell. Many spots had went three or more weeks without measurable rainfall, going back to when Irma impacted us in early September. So fortunately, ground conditions were not saturated going in to Nate’s arrival but still with tropical systems there is a concern that rainfall could exceed what local creeks and streams could hold if the rainfall rates occur fast enough.


Computer model guidance once the storm track locked in really highlighted on a 2-4 inch rainfall in our Piedmont Counties, 3-6 inches in the Foothills with local higher amounts along the immediate Blue Ridge. For the most part, our forecast (similar to guidance) panned out pretty well. As you can see on the Foothills Skywatch Doppler rainfall estimates, the heaviest rainfall did occur along the Blue Ridge and the immediate foothills thanks to a hefty upslope flow in the order of 30-50 knots. The rainfall in those locations began on Sunday morning and got heavier as the main banding features pushed in from the south and west. Rainfall rates during the heaviest part of the storm ranged in the 2-3 inch per hour range, something that is common during tropical weather events here in the interior Southeast and SoApps Region.






Thankfully, Nate’s forward speed 20-25 mph prevented flooding from being a much bigger impact with this storm. The National Weather Service did issue a couple Areal Flood Advisories for heavy rainfall late Sunday but little if any flash flooding was observed. The image below is a 2-day observed rainfall map courtesy of the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg. The data was compiled from a combination of COOP sites, CoCoRaHS and spotter reports across the Western Carolinas.


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 With everything now in hindsight Nate delivered very beneficial rainfall to the region with little in the way of damage. October can be a dry time of the year, so to have an organized tropical system deliver the amount of rain that it did will help keep ground moisture elevated here as we are in the peak of the fall season.

Along with the heavy rain potential our forecast team had concerns going in to the event about the potential of strong gradient winds and/or spin-up tornadoes. Computer model guidance a day out showed sufficient CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) entering into our region under a highly sheared environment. Also, our region which is known for its cold air or in-situ damming regimes during overrunning events was lacking that safety barrier with Nate making for a more volatile environment near the surface.





Unfortunately, the ingredients came together for strong rotating cells or segments Sunday afternoon as Nate passed to our west. The Carolinas as a whole had as many as nine confirmed tornadoes with three of them in our coverage area…all three touchdowns came off the same convective cell that developed out ahead of the main banding feature associated with Nate’s remnants.


The first Tornado Warning of the day came at 2:25 pm forNorthern Rutherford and Southeast McDowell Counties…at that time Doppler Radar indicated sufficient enough rotation near Gilkey to issue the warning. That cell moved into Southern and Eastern McDowell County through 3 pm before weakening as it approached Nebo and Lake James. There was no report of damage or a tornado from that cell but that set the tone for stronger activity later in the afternoon.


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The first confirmed tornado touched down in Upper Cleveland County a couple hours later from a separate discrete cell ahead of the main feeder band. This storm showed very impressive rotation by the time it reached along NC HWY 182 between Polkville and Lawndale.  The National Weather Service issued the Warning for Northern Sections of the county along with Southeast Burke prior to 5 pm.

 According to NWS survey, the tornado was classified as an EF-0 with estimated 80 mph winds. The storm remained on the ground from near Polkville to the Ramsey Community in Burke County along the South Mountains…the tornado damaged a few structures along the path and uprooted trees in the rural portion of the county.


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A few minutes prior to the initial touchdown that cell moved over the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, which was hosting the annual Cleveland County Fair at the time. While not a tornado at that point, the storm was a very impressive meso-scale system (rotating thunderstorm) just off the surface, a usual precursor to a tornado.



The tornado associated with this supercell briefly lifted as it was crossing the South Mountains, however once the storm made it across the ridges in Southern Burke, the low level spin needed quickly came back to together. At approximately 5:35 pm, a second tornado touched down in Southern Burke County between Long Mountain and Hildebran Mountain, moving to the North-Northeast.


This tornado stayed on the ground for just under 5 miles, survey crews yesterday determined this tornado had maximum winds of around 95 mph giving it EF-1 status.

The tornado initially snapped or uprooted multiple trees and numerous limbs and caused minor roof and gutter damage to a home offMineral Springs Mountain Rd. The tornado moved north/northeast from there through a heavily wooded area, but presumably remained on the ground before moving across Cub Creek St just offMineral Springs Mountain Rd. The tornado continued reaching the Connelly Springs area before lifting a second time.


Doppler Radar at this timeframe continued to show an impressive couplet signature across Eastern Burke County crossing over Interstate 40…


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The final confirmed tornado occurred near Hudson in Southern Caldwell County at approximately 6 pm…


This tornado, third and strongest in a series of tornadoes associated with the same supercell thunderstorm, touched down in Hudson near the intersection of Hwy 321 and Mt Herman Rd. A large truck was overturned at this location. The tornado moved north/northeast, initially paralleling Mt Vernon Rd. Numerous trees were uprooted and snapped, with one large tree falling on and causing significant damage to a home. One tractor-trailer was also pushed over on its side in a restaurant parking lot along US 321 near Hudson. The NWS states in their survey that the tornado continued to move North-Northeast through the county eventually crossing Hibriten Mountain then re-emerging and ending in the Cedar Rock Community about 10 minutes later.


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With the damage that was done to property along its path, there are no reported fatalities and only one injury directly related to the storm. We feel that is a testament to all who heed the warnings and vital information that Foothills Weather Network  along with the folks at the National Weather Service distribute to the public.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were impacted by the dangerous weather that rolled through on Sunday. This outbreak of tornadoes is also very historic in that Sunday made the first time in modern record keeping that a confirmed tornado hit Burke, Caldwell and Cleveland Counties in the month of October.


As we wrap up this summary, check out the image gallery here below for some of the pics taken by our team of Meteorologists who were in the field surveying the storm damage on Tuesday in Burke County. Also below are links to the pull reports submitted by National Weather Service..