Storms prompt emergency plans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — A storm front is moving into the area, and Emergency Management Division Coordinator Frank Thomason, says he’s “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”
Thomason and emergency management have begun setting up an emergency operations center in the Rowan County agriculture auditorium on Old Concord Road, with tables, chairs, phones and computers.
Thomason has activated a level 3 operation center, meaning the need for the center is probable or imminent. Emergency personnel and firefighters have been asked to be on standby starting at 5 p.m. today. The center was not set up for the past two storms that hit Rowan.
“The entire storm system is very fast moving,” Thomason said, expected to arrive in Rowan late this afternoon, traveling about 40 mph, and lasting until early Thursday morning. “But it appears, just like the ones before, this one also has the potential to pack a punch.”
The potential high wind event and squall line is now probable for Rowan County and the region later this evening and into tomorrow morning.
The storm front, which is currently moving out of the southwest, will move into the N.C. mountains by midnight and quickly move eastward into the I-77 corridor in the early morning hours of Thursday.
Ahead of this front, isolated “super cell” thunderstorms may occur sporadically, with possible high wind gusts and hail. These will continue off and on throughout the evening as the front moves closer.
The primary focus is a squall line, similar to the wind event of two weeks ago, that has the potential to cause widespread damage from both straight line winds and the possible generation of tornadoes with short-lived winds in the EF0 to EF1 tornado classification.
The history of this storm thus far has shown major damage in other states, along with injuries and fatalities.
For Rowan, the storm system is expected to be east of the area by mid- to late morning Thursday. National Weather Service officials are extremely concerned with the strength of this storm and it’s related thunderstorm cells, with potential for damage and injury.
Significant rainfall to cause potential flash flooding is not expected, with total rainfall amounts from this event forecast around one-half inch.
Citizens and businesses are encouraged to monitor updated weather conditions throughout the evening via local media or a weather alert radio, and review emergency action plans.
“The National Weather Service is very concerned about it,” Thomason said. “It really has the potential for significant widespread damage, with straightline winds and possible tornadoes.”