The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina:

OBX Storm Watching

Tuesday May 20, 2008


On our third day in the OBX, our group of kayakers decided to take the day off from paddling as NOAA was forecasting severe thunderstorms with dangerous lightning and winds up to 60 mph. When we awoke that morning, the sky was sunny and temps were in the 70's and other than some strong winds (20-25+ mph) there was no sign whatsoever of the impending storm.



After everyone had breakfast, we left our house in Salvo and headed over to the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island. From the Aquarium we could see the raging waters of the Croatan Sound kicking up with the increased winds.  After enjoying the Aquarium exhibits we noticed the sky darkening a bit in the distance but we continued into the town of Manteo for some food and drinks.  In the car ride over, the emergency tone signaled on the radio station and the Emergency Broadcast System switched to a NOAA weather alert which warned of severe thunder and lightning storms for the listening area, with high winds up to 60 mph and the possibility of quarter size hail.  We listened attentively, but continued into town.  As we ate lunch and had some cold drinks, the radio at the restaurant continued to broadcast the emergency tones and NOAA warnings about a number of storms which had already struck and some that were forming. After lunch we decided to head back to our house in Salvo to bunker down. On the return drive, one of the weather alerts warned of a possible tornado in the area and at that point, some 'concern' was added to the day's excitement.



Crossing over the Oregon Inlet Bridge, we could see the storms in the distance over the mainland.   They seemed to be moving slowly but in our direction.  Once we got to the house, we got our cameras out, poured some wine, and moved to our 3rd story deck where we could see the storms out over the Pamlico Sound.  They were moving towards us.  Anticipation built as the storms moved in and we got to watch some pretty cool cloud formations as a cold front collided with the warm front.  Right before our eyes, we watched some clouds begin to swirl and form a small funnel.  Anticipation built as we wondered if the funnel of pressure was going to continue to develop.  It continued for about 5-10 seconds and after that, the swirling stopped and developing funnel just slowly dissolved.  Because nothing serious developed and there was no thunder or lightning yet, this storm system was very exciting to watch.


For about 35 minutes we snapped pictures and joked about our house blowing down off the pilings.  Some high winds, rain and thunder eventually moved in, and we watched the lightning in the distance.  Fortunately there there was no tornado and other than some of our patio furniture blowing off the third story deck and cracking, there was no property damage.

Although we could literally feel the entire three story house shaking from the winds, it weathered the storm which lasted well into the night.  We didn't care, we had a nice big window to watch from, and plenty of wine, chips and salsa!


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