Slow Moving Strong To Severe Storms Rattle Homes In The Foothills Monday Evening.

1:00am Tuesday June 12, 2018

     Monday started off a mostly cloudy day across Western North Carolina through late morning. This kept thunderstorm development to a minimul early in the day across the Foothills.  As the sun started to make more of an appearance after noontime temps responded accordingly, jumping up to around 80° in most neighborhoods.  You could tell it was muggy too with dewpoints up close to 70°. Instability grew and surface base thunderstorm fuel bumped up to the 1500 j/kg mark.  Typically speaking it takes over 1500 j/kg of atmospheric energy to produce severe weather, but not always.  A backdoor cold front moved into the area bringing with it showers and thunderstorms just after 6:00pm.  This front was a slow mover and pounded the foothills with damaging winds, fierce lightning with thunder that rattled homes, hail, and torrential downpours.  

     Foothills Weather Network started issuing lightning alerts at 6:19pm Monday Afternoon for Alexander and caldwell Counties as the first thunderstorm began to threaten the area from the North.  “It was easy to see that the storms today were going to produce crazy amounts of lightning,” said Chief Meteorologist Christopher White. In his morning weather briefing on The Foothills Weather Network White highlighted that storms could become strong Monday Evening and that they would try to cluster together. “There is some weak sheer present too so a couple of thunderstorm clusters are possible,” White wrote.  

     By 7:00pm single thunderstorms began to develop into clusters of thunderstorms in Alexander, Caldwell, and Catawba Counties. As the slow moving cold front continued progressing Southwest it encountered unused thunderstorm fuel in the atmosphere which allowed storms to grow and prosper.


     At 7:35pm The National Weather Service put out its first of many special weather statements for the area in Caldwell County. Storms began to merge and cluster together over Caldwell County. This was the first storm of the afternoon that would produce some small hail in Collettsville.  The storm was also nearly stationary. 


     This storm prompted an expansion of the lightning alerts that were already in place to our next row of counties.  At 7:35pm a lightning Alert went into affect for Burke, Catawba, and Lincoln Counties. Storms were becoming quite strong s d were expanding in coverage by this point as well.  Positive lightning strikes started occurring just after this radar snapshot. 


     By 7:48pm we had an entire line of thunderstorms developing along a boundary that had pushed out ahead of the backdoor front.  Storms continued to merge and expand in coverage and, in turn, the storms intensity was increasing as well. Lightning by this point was really starting to become more problematic. Lightning was running in on people’s homes causing damage to appliances and electrical issues. 


     By 8:15pm positive lightning was beginning to pop upwards of 5 miles outside of the storm. The frequency of strikes was definitely picking up as well. That’s a good indication the storms are getting stronger. “In strong thunderstorms we look to a radar product called vertical integrated liquid. The higher the kilograms the better chance of seeing hail at the surface and the larger it usually is. 40-50 kg/m2 is a good indicator that hail is present. Most storms along this line were in that range by 8:30pm. 


     By   8:25pm storms were continuing to expand East and Southeast along a line. Storms were going up all the way down to Mecklenburg County.       




We were watching this entire line fire off and cautiously blighting our nails so we didn’t get into the quick. Two storms really had our attention. The first was the storm in Burke County. This storm pulsed up to 44,000 ft at 8:37pm over Oak Hill. We pretty well knew what was coming next. Sure enough around 8:41pm a microburst hit the Oak Hill Community. We are estimating about a 60-70mph gust that swept through there creating a swath of damage.  There was scattered damage as well as this storm went through McDowell and Rutherford Counties.   Trees came within inches of falling into a house located along Frank Whisnant Rd in Oak Hill (Burke County). “We are very thankful,” said Sandy Sisk.  No injuries occurred in this storm.  Many people in the immediate area of Oak Hill Elementary reported that the storm was the worst one that Burke County has seen in years. TJ Benfield was near Oak Hill Fire Department when the microburst hit the area. “It was absolutely the craziest storm I’ve encountered here in Burke County.  It actually shifted our car while we were sitting in it.”  The Burke County Emergency Communications Center was flooded with 911 calls reporting trees and power lines down. 


      The second storm we were watching was moving out of the Cherryville Area in Gaston County, towards Kings Mountain and Southeast Cleveland County. At 9:16pm NWS issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for his cell as it climbed to 49,000ft.  This storm knocked power out and trees down along Hwy 150 in Southeast Cleveland County.  Follower Jacob Wallace posted this to The Cleveland County FWN Page “Headed up 150 from Shelby to Cherryville about 9:15 tonight was crazy. Transformers blowing left and right.”  We then received reports of hail the size of golf balls falling in Kings Mountain.  Multiple reports of trees and power lines down across that area too but thankfully no injuries.

     Damage to trees and power lines were also reported in Nebo and Dysartsville sections of McDowrll County.  Rutherford County also received some tree damage that brought down power lines Southwest of Rutherfordton.  All of today’s damage reports were due to straight line winds from microbursts.  It is important that you know that straight line winds can do as much damage as a tornado.  One microburst in a Eastern NC today produced straight line winds close to 90mph.  Take severe thunderstorm warnings seriously. 

     Foothills Weather Network makes your safety a priority before, during, and after severe weather events. Weather affects us all everyday and we want to make sure you are prepared for whatever the wind blows your way. In the mornings be sure to check out our full weather briefings for the day ahead and anything that could be coming. You having a plan can mean the difference between life or death in an emergency weather situation. You can check out our briefings here,

As we get more damage photos in we will post those in our photo gallery here,

Christopher White

Chief Meteorologist