UPDATE March 18 6:52 p.m.: A tornado warning is in effect for east central Orange County and central Durham County until 7:30 p.m, according to the National Weather Service.
According to the NWS, those in affected areas should avoid windows and move to a basement or interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Those outdoors, in vehicles or in mobile homes should move to the closest shelter and protect themselves from flying debris.
Tree damage, and damage to roofs, windows and vehicles is likely.
UPDATE March 18 6:28 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm warning is now in place by the National Weather Service until 7:15 p.m.
UPDATE March 18 5:16 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch in effect until 9:00 p.m. for Orange County and surrounding counties, according to an Alert Carolina message.
The National Weather Service is warning of severe storms across central North Carolina on Thursday afternoon.
There’s a potential for damaging winds, tornadoes, lightning and large hail from about 3 to 6 p.m. According to the weather service, it’s possible there will be numerous downed trees and power outages across the area.
UNC has issued an Alert Carolina statement on the expected storms and said the University is closely monitoring the situation.
The Alert Carolina emergency sirens on campus will sound if a tornado warning is issued in the area.
According to the University, if the sirens go off, anyone in the area needs to take immediate safety precautions including seeking shelter, moving to an interior room on the lowest floor of the building and avoiding windows. In addition to the sirens, Alert Carolina will send text messages and emails to all those registered.
Local school districts prepare
Orange County Schools announced that March 18 will be an at-home remote learning day. The district will close all school buildings and provided extra meals to families Wednesday, given that meal sites will be closed on Thursday.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has modified its schedule ahead of the expected storm. All CHCCS buildings will close at noon, and staff will have the option to work remotely.
Adapted Curriculum students will be remote Thursday, and all athletics and after school activities have been canceled.
The CHCCS board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. will proceed virtually unless internet or power outages occur.
“We’re watching it of course, and we’ve had meetings,” Jeff Nash, the district's public information officer, said.
Tips for residents
The Orange County Emergency Operations Center will be active throughout the day Thursday, Community Relations Director Todd McGee said. McGee said residents need to have a plan in place for what to do and where to go if there’s a tornado in the area.
“Do all those things that you would do to prepare for any contingent power outages,” McGee said. “Get your cell phones charged up, get your chargers charged, have your nonperishable food supply for a couple of days ready if you need it.”
Residents can report storm damage here.
To get updates on severe weather conditions, the weather service puts out Twitter updates at @NWSRaleigh.
“I want everyone to take it seriously and be prepared for whatever may come,” McGee said.
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