A tornado warning is in effect until 5:15 p.m. Wednesday for southwestern Catawba County and southeastern Burke County.
At 4:51 p.m., a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was 7 miles southeast of Morganton and moving east at 50 mph. Quarter-size hail also is possible.
The storm was near Icard and Rhodhiss around 5 p.m. and was expected to strike Hickory, Mountain View, Hickory Regional Airport, Longview and Hildebran around 5:10 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
Charlotte’s weather is going to be in upheaval over the next three days, with highs near 80 Wednesday giving way to high winds and severe storms into late Wedbnesday, and a possible freeze early Saturday.
A 20-degree temperature drop is predicted between Wednesday and Thursday’s highs.
Forecasters are blaming it all on a “vigorous cold front” that will sweep through the area about 7 p.m. Wednesday. It will be preceded by a line of showers and thunderstorms which could become severe with damaging wind gusts of up to 37 mph.
Chance of rain Wednesday evening is 80 percent and it will pass through rather quickly.
Starting Thursday, temperatures will struggle to reach 60 during the day and lows will be in the 30s each night, with possible freezing-frost early morning Saturday. The high Saturday will be 57.
The high possibility of severe weather forced High Country school districts in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties to announce they were dismissing early Wednesday.
And shortly after noon, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced the temporary closure of all park roads at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday due to a predicted high wind storm. Park officials said they were expecting the storm to be intense and fast moving, with heavy winds, rain, lightning and hail.
A midday statement from the Ashe County Schools said they had been warned of a “high possibility of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds, large hail and an isolated tornado.”
“Therefore,” said the statement, “we are dismissing elementary schools at noon, middle at 12:30 and high at 1 p.m.”
Alleghany County Public Schools officials posted a statement saying stormy conditions could force afternoon dismissals to be delayed.