Area counties are under a tornado watch until 5 p.m. this afternoon, the National Weather Service is reporting.
Strong to severe thunderstorms are projected to cross the region today, bringing strong winds, heavy rainfall and frequent lightning, the weather service said. There is also the potential for isolated tornadoes.
Because of the threat, the Edenton-Chowan Schools held students beyond their scheduled release time today at 3 p.m. Parents were notified of the delay, school spokeswoman Michelle Maddox said.
"We will be releasing buses within the next few minutes," Maddox said in an email shortly before 3:45 p.m. "A call will go out to parents to let them know when the buses are on the road."
In the Elizabeth City area, between a quarter and a half-inch of rainfall is expected from the storm sometime after 2 p.m. Scattered thunderstorms are also forecast for tonight, with rainfall accumulations of between a tenth and quarter inch expected.
The tornado watch applies to part of Maryland, much of Virginia and nine counties in northeastern North Carolina. That includes Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck counties, plus Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton.
"It's definitely worth monitoring," Newns said of the approaching storm.
The Currituck County Schools can get up-to-the-minute updates via weather radios so that they can respond quickly to changing conditions, Newns said.
Saunders advised area residents to take today's tornado watch as an opportunity to create or review their tornado response plans for themselves and their families. Staying safe in extreme or dangerous weather requires advance preparation, she said.
Saunders directed local residents to the EMS website, www.pasquotankcamdenem.com, for guidance on how to plan for tornadoes and other emergencies. The site also advises people may call 331-7474 for updates during emergencies.