Quarter-size hail, 65-mph gusts, isolated tornado expected with Charlotte area storms

Severe storms could deliver quarter-size hail, 65-mph gusts and an “isolated tornado” to parts of the Charlotte region and the NC foothills and mountains Tuesday afternoon and evening, according to National Weather Service warnings.

Storms moved into parts of the mountains at about 2 p.m., NWS meteorologists tweeted.

Mecklenburg and surrounding counties were under a “severe thunderstorm watch” until 7 p.m.

The Charlotte region and N.C. mountains should brace for another round of “isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms” and “an isolated strong to severe thunderstorm” on Wednesday night, according to an NWS hazardous weather bulletin early Wednesday.

“Lightning, brief heavy downpours, and gusty winds will be the primary threats,” NWS meteorologists said in the bulletin.

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, a severe thunderstorm eight miles southwest of uptown Charlotte packed 60 mph gusts and dumped penny-size hail, according to a tweet by SC Weather Alerts.

Lightning forced Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials to temporarily close the ramp where planes unload passengers and luggage, according to an airport tweet.

The storm knocked out power to at least 300 Duke Energy customers near South Tryon Street and Carowinds Boulevard in Charlotte’s Steele Creek section, according to Duke Energy’s online outage map. Power was restored by 5 p.m.

Storms cut electricity to far more Duke Energy customers elsewhere in the Carolinas, including 7,000 in the Winston-Salem area, 3,000 in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., and 600 in the Hickory area. An estimated 15,370 Duke Energy customers were without power at 5 p.m. across North Carolina.

A severe storm in the Alexander County community of Bethlehem blew the glass out of a pharmacy and toppled a tree into the dining room ceiling of a home, the Hickory Daily News reported. No one was injured, according to the newspaper.

At 5 p.m., another storm barreled through parts of north Mecklenburg and Iredell, Cabarrus and Rowan counties, according to the NWS office in Greer, S.C., which oversees weather for the Charlotte area and parts of the mountains.

Just before 5:30 p.m., NWS meteorologists urged boaters on Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake to get off the water due to an approaching storm with 60-mph gusts.

The high neared 95 in the Charlotte metro area on Tuesday afternoon, with a heat index value up to 105, NWS forecasters said. The heat index measures “how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature,” according to the NWS.

Wednesday’s forecast calls for sunny skies, with a high near 93 and a heat index value of 101.

Highs are expected to remain in the low- to mid-90s through Monday before dipping to 89 on Tuesday, according to the latest NWS forecast at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.