Event Summary
     National Weather Service, Raleigh NC

May 2, 2004 Severe Weather Outbreak
Updated 2004/05/12

Event Overview - Several waves of showers and thunderstorms moved across North Carolina during the late morning through early evening hours on Sunday, May 2, 2004 (radar loop from 1558Z Sunday May 2, 2004 through 0105Z Monday May 3, 2004). The thunderstorms became increasingly intense during the afternoon, with several thunderstorms becoming severe. There were several reports of wind damage with one tornado touch down across northern Harnett County near the community of Kipling (Map of damage reports from May 2, 2004 Severe Weather Event). The thunderstorms gradually diminished in intensity during the mid to late evening hours. No injuries were reported and damage estimates were not available.

Synoptic Overview - For a few days preceding the event, a high amplitude upper level trough was present in the nationís mid-section, transporting warm moist air into the Southeast. A cold front located over central Tennessee early on Sunday, May 2, slowly approached North Carolina during the day. The remnants of a convective complex moved across the state during the morning producing numerous showers and thunderstorms. As this convective complex moved away, a brief period of sunshine developed allowing some surface heating to occur. A marginally unstable air mass developed over central North Carolina as temperatures climbed in the upper 70s to lower 80s with dewpoints in the mid 60s to around 70. A 40 knot south to southwesterly flow continued to transport an unstable air mass into the region. The strong low level flow enhanced the potential for damaging wind gusts with isolated tornadoes.

Severe Weather Reports - Note that the severe weather reports were generally clustered together several rounds of severe weather were associated with either super cell or multi-cell clusters.




Kipling Tornado in Northern Harnett County - A damage survey was conducted across northern Harnett County on May 3, 2004 and the National Weather Service has confirmed that the damage which occurred along Christian Light Road in northwest Harnett County resulted from a tornado. There were no injuries...but there was roof damage to 3 homes and a tree fell on a mobile home. There was also damage to several sheds and vehicles in the vicinity of these homes. Approximately 3 dozen large trees (diameters up to 20 inches) were twisted and snapped off. The damage exhibited a circulatory pattern indicative of a tornado.

An eyewitness who actually saw the tornado as it touched down and 3 other individuals confirmed that they heard the characteristic train-like sound prior to the damage. The damage path was measured at 2.25 miles and the width of the damage path was approximately 300 yards. A preliminary rating of F-1 on the Fujita scale, which rates tornadoes according to the severity of damage, has been assigned this tornado.

Reports of damage in the area first arrived around 515 PM EDT on Sunday, May 2. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was in effect over central North Carolina at the time. The national weather service in Raleigh had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Harnett County at 436 PM EDT and a Tornado Warning was issued for Northern Harnett County at 503 PM EDT.

The photo below was taken by Jenny Tart in the Christian Light area in Harnett County at approximately 520 PM EDT. The photo is taken looking east toward what is believed to be the funnel cloud that touched down a few minutes earlier as a tornado as shown on the map below.

photo of funnel cloud that touched down earlier


Kipling Tornado Track - Roads and communities - Click on the image to enlarge.

Kipling Tornado Track - Click to enlarge


Kipling Tornado Track - Terra Server View - Click on the image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of USGS TERRA Server

Kipling Tornado Track - Click to enlarge





Archived Text Data from the May 2, 2004 Severe Weather Outbreak

Select the desired product along with the date and click "Get Archive Data."
Date and time should be selected based on issuance time in GMT.

 from 



Surface Data


NCEP Surface Analysis at 00Z on Monday, May 3, 2004 (8 PM EDT Sunday May 2, 2004).

NCEP Surface Analysis from 00Z on Monday, May 3, 2004.

Java Loop of Surface Analysis from Surface Analysis from 00Z Sunday May 2, 2004 through 06Z Monday, May 3, 2004.





Radar Imagery

KRAX Base Reflectivity Image from 2105Z Sunday, May 2, 2004.
Note the "Hook" echo over northern Harnett County. A tornado touched down at approximately 2110Z, just west of Kipling, in northern Harnett County. Click on the image to enlarge.

KRAX Base Reflectivity Imagery - Click to enlarge


Java Loop of base reflectivity imagery from krax WSR-88D from 2015Z Sunday May 2, 2004 through 2130Z Sunday May 2, 2004.
This imagery highlights the development of the tornadic thunderstorm over Harnett County.


Java Loop of base reflectivity imagery from krax WSR-88D from 1558Z Sunday May 2, 2004 through 0105Z Monday May 3, 2004.
This imagery highlights the development of the numerous thunderstorm clusters across central North Carolina during the afternoon and evening of May 2, 2004.


4-Panel KRAX "8-bit" Reflectivity Imagery from 2105Z Sunday, May 2, 2004.
Note the pronounced "Hook" echo over northern Harnett County. A tornado touched down at approximately 2110Z, just west of Kipling, in northern Harnett County. Click on the image to enlarge.

4 panel, 8-bit reflectivity imagery from krax WSR-88D at time of tornado touchdown in Harnett County - Click to enlarge

4-Panel KRAX "8-bit" Storm Relative Velocity Imagery from 2105Z Sunday, May 2, 2004.
Note the distinct circulation couplet over northern Harnett County at the 1.5 and 2.4 degrees elevation angle. A tornado touched down at approximately 2110Z, just west of Kipling, in northern Harnett County. Click on the image to enlarge.

4 panel, 8-bit storm relative velocity imagery from krax WSR-88D at time of tornado touchdown in Harnett County - Click to enlarge



Warning Decision Process

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the Harnett County storm at 2036Z. At that time, the storm showed relatively high reflectivity values aloft while the stormís echo tops had reached the equilibrium level plus 20 percent. Meanwhile, only a weak mid level rotation in the storm relative velocity imagery was indicated; however, the near storm environment showed the potential for tornadic development as indicated by the relatively higher storm relative helicities in Harnett County and nearby areas.

The first clues indicative of a tornado possibly developing were seen in the appearance of an ďappendageĒ in the lowest radar reflectivity slice. By this time, the stormís weak mid level rotation had strengthened and deepened. The decision to upgrade the severe thunderstorm warning to a tornado warning at 2103Z was based on a significant increase in the stormís outbound SRM velocities seen at the 2,500 foot above ground level (lowest radar slice).



Selected Photographs from the Storm


Various images of tornado damage in northern Harnett County near Kipling.
(Click the image to enlarge.)

Photo courtesy of Jenny Tart - Photo taken at approximately 520 PM EDT on May 2, 2004 in the Christian Light area of Harnett County looking east toward what is believed to be the funnel cloud that touched down a few minutes earlier as a tornado - Click to enlarge        Damage at southern end of tornado track is shown. 20 - 24 inch diameter pines twisted off - Click to enlarge        Rotation evident in wind damage - Click to enlarge

Large oak trees uprooted at nearly 180 degree angles - Click to enlarge        Roof damage, swing set on left was originally located at center of picture - Click to enlarge        Tree trunk on right was broken off the standing trunk at the far left. Note that the broken trunk was rotated as it fell - Click to enlarge



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