Poor radar coverage led to delayed storm warnings, National Weather Service says

CLINTON, N.C. (WNCN) — The National Weather Service said the damage in Sampson County Monday night was the result of straight-line winds, some of which topped 90 miles per hour.

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But that’s not what they predicted.

“I just hit the floor — that’s all I could do. Just prayed,” John Clapper, a Sampson County homeowner said.

He told CBS North Carolina he stayed up late Monday night — watching the news to try to prepare for the severe weather.

RELATED: Sampson County woman climbs through kitchen window to escape storm-damaged home

Clapper heard that winds could top 50 mph, but not almost double that. He said it sounded like a freight train when it came through.

“It took the roof completely off. It tore my car, the car behind me, completely up. Everything went to the back,” Clapper said.

In Autryvile last week, folks were given little, if any, notice of that tornado.

CBS North Carolina followed up with the National Weather Service.

“Over Sampson County, the closest radar will give you a radar beam at 3,000 feet. And so everything from 3,000 feet to the surface we cannot see,” Ryan Ellis with the National Weather Service said.

RELATED: Straight-line winds, not tornado wreaks havoc in Sampson County

Ellis explained that in Eastern North Carolina there are three radars — Clayton, Morehead City and Wilmington.

The farther from the radar you are, the less you can see. He told CBS North Carolina that they can only scan the radar every two to five minutes and that severe weather can pop up faster than that.

“You see things high up in the storm that gives us clues to what may be happening on the ground, but it is very hard to tell what will happen on the ground,” Ellis said

“I felt very, very lucky last night. Everybody did,” Clapper said.

The National Weather Service says its constantly reviewing its data and technology to ensure its predictions are as accurate as possible.

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