Storms barreling through the Charlotte region destroyed two homes and damaged up to 30 others just east of Statesville on Wednesday afternoon, while blinding rain toppled a tree onto Interstate 77 and flooded roads and parking lots in south Charlotte.
Two tornadoes appear to have touched down in the region, one in eastern Iredell County and the other in southern Union County.
The American Red Cross was helping 10 people displaced by the Iredell County twister, which touched down between Swann Road and U.S. 64 (Mocksville Highway) near Davie County.
The suspected tornado knocked trees down as it crossed Interstate 40, and the N.C. Department of Transportation closed the interstate in the area. One lane of eastbound I-40 at mile marker 158 near Statesville was expected to remain closed until 7 p.m.
Because of downed trees and power lines, U.S 64 will remain shut in both directions near Swann Road until 11:15 p.m., the state DOT said.
The twister moved north into Yadkin County, damaging Courtney Elementary School in Yadkinville and overturning vehicles. Residents were trapped in damaged homes, according to numerous social media reports, although no injuries have been confirmed.
The second tornado appeared to have touched down in southern Union County. At one point, TV meteorologists noted a “debris signature” on radar -- a sign of debris in the air.
Damaged homes and barns and numerous downed trees were reported along and near Sandy Ridge Road in the southeast part of the county.
A tornado watch remained for the Charlotte region until 9 p.m. and a flood advisory for the Charlotte metro area until 7:15 p.m.
The National Weather Service in Greer, S.C., plans to send teams to Union County and Iredell County on Thursday morning to survey damage and confirm that tornadoes touched down, NWS meteorologist Lauren Carroll said Wednesday night. “We strongly suspect they were tornadoes,” she said.
Intense storms moved northeast from South Carolina Wednesday afternoon, also producing a tornado in Saluda, S.C., and tornado warnings in the S.C. counties of Laurens and Union.
At 3:45 p.m., rain was so heavy and blinding in south Charlotte that traffic crept at about 20 mph on Westinghouse Boulevard. Parking lots were flooded.
The tree that backed up I-77 southbound fell just north of the Nations Ford Road exit.
Flooding concerns heightened after two to three inches of rain fell in the region Sunday through early Monday and another .75 inches on Tuesday.
Up to another half-inch of rain is expected Wednesday night and early Thursday, before skies finally turn partly sunny, according to the National Weather Service. Thursday night could remain partly cloudy, but Friday and Saturday should be sunny with respective highs near 81 and 87.
Sunday should be partly sunny with a high near 88 and only a 30 percent chance of rain.
Staff Writer Mark Price contributed.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS