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2011 tornadoes had profound impact on people, businesses, schools in Raleigh

Posted April 10
Updated April 16

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— Ruby Miller has lived on King Charles Road in Raleigh for decades, but her home is practically new and serves as a near constant reminder of the destruction caused by tornadoes that ripped through the region on April 16, 2011.

Miller's home was rebuilt from the foundation up five years ago. She remembers the day well.

"We have the WRAL weather alert," she said. describing how she took cover moments before the tornado arrived.

By the time the storm moved out, trees had nearly destroyed the home.

"We could not get out. We were trapped in the house," she said.

Miles away, in the McKinley Mill neighborhood, a similar scene unfolded on that unforgettable Saturday.

"I just lost my house. My neighbors lost their house," tornado victim Natasha Withers said.

"A lot of screaming, a lot of people did not know what was going on," Martin Evans said.

Wake County Emergency Management Director Joshua Creighton remembers the day, too. He and his staff had their hands full.

"The tornado hit seven different locations," he said. "I saw a lot of trees down, a lot of displaced people."

In south Raleigh, where the tornado touched down on South Saunders Street, Daniel Stewart was busy working at Earp's Seafood.

The store was nearly gutted, and it took a year for it to reopen.

"It tore up the top of the roof, and on the side of the building, it just took the whole side off," Stewart said. "I was really scared. I thought that was it, really."

Shaw University, too, dealt with the power of the tornado.

It damaged 27 buildings – nearly every one on campus – and caused $3.7 million in damage. The historic school canceled classes for the remainder of the spring 2011 semester, and students were forced to take final exams online.

"The tornado really took a toll on the university," Shaw President Tashni-Ann Dubroy said. "(Students) were scared."

With help from the community, the university is back.

"Shaw has been around for 150 years, and we intend to be around another 150 years," Dubroy said.

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