NORTH CAROLINA – It's Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Severe storms can happen any time of the year here, but they occur more frequently in March, April, and May.

What You Need To Know

  • April is the peak month for tornadoes in North Carolina

  • Damaging straight-line winds in a severe thunderstorm can cause as much damage as a tornado

  • Large hail can also be dangerous or even deadly

Now is a good time to refresh our memory on how severe weather can impact our part of the country.


Tornado near Wilson on April 16, 2011. Thirty tornadoes touched down that day across North Carolina, making it the largest tornado outbreak in the state's recorded history. Photo by Kevin M. Smith.

North Carolina averages 26 tornadoes, 3 tornado fatalities, and 39 tornado injuries each year. April is the peak month for tornadoes in the state. A secondary peak occurs in November.

Tornadoes occur more frequently in the afternoon and early evening but can develop any time of day or night. The deadliest time for tornadoes can be at night since getting weather alerts at night is more difficult.

Damaging Winds and Hail

Straight-line winds from a severe storm damaged a school in Sampson County in January 2020. Photo by Spectrum News 1 reporter Kaitlyn Connoly.

Of course, severe storms don't have to produce tornadoes to be deadly. Straight-line wind gusts from severe storms can cause extensive damage similar to that of a tornado.

A storm is classified as severe if it produces damaging winds or hail one inch in diameter or larger. 

Hail produced by a spring storm in Chapel Hill. Photo by Burani Tourville.

Hail can reach the size of softballs, falling at speeds over 100 miles per hour. 

When severe storms and tornadoes threaten us, it is best to seek shelter in a small, windowless, interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. A basement, interior hallway, closet, or windowless bathroom often provides the best protection.

Stay tuned to Spectrum News 1, and keep checking the Spectrum News app through this Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Each morning, we'll take a look at a different type of severe weather and include information on how you and your family can stay safe during these dangerous storms.

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