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Tornado watch is in effect for Charlotte, area

A tornado watch is in effect for Charlotte and areas to the west and north until the early-morning hours Monday, as strong thunderstorms threaten the western Carolinas.

The tornado watch is in effect for 1 a.m., covering Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Iredell, Alexander, Catawba, Caldwell, Watauga, Burke, McDowell, Rutherford, Lincoln, Gaston and Cleveland counties in the Charlotte region.

No South Carolina counties are included in the watch. Nor are any counties to the east of Charlotte.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., severe thunderstorms were pounding an area from Shelby to around Asheville. Severe thunderstorms warnings were in effect for Cleveland and Rutherford counties in North Carolina and for northern Cherokee County in South Carolina.

Those storms earlier produced winds estimated by an off-duty National Weather Service staff member as 70 mph in Asheville. There were numerous reports of downed tree and power lines in Buncombe and surrounding counties. Those storms appeared to be moving toward the east.

Severe thunderstorms, some with hail 2 to 3 inches in diameter, battered eastern Tennessee and southeast Kentucky for much of the afternoon. Some of these storms kept their intensity as they moved into the mountain counties along the Virginia and Tennessee borders.

There have been numerous reports of wind damage since 4 p.m. in eastern Tennessee, along with two reports of tornadoes.

The storms have lost some of their intensity while crossing the mountains, but Scott Krentz of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C., said forecasters think the storms could re-form east of the mountains late Sunday night and move into the foothills and Piedmont.

The severe weather is forming in advance of a strong cold front that is expected to bring below-average temperatures -- a taste of autumn, some forecasters call it -- to the Carolinas from Tuesday into at least next weekend.