Local News

Red Springs remembers deadly tornadoes of 1984

Posted March 28, 2014

— With its arching windows and sun-filled sanctuary, Red Springs Presbyterian Church is beautiful house of worship.

But 30 years ago, it was nearly destroyed by a tornado that ripped off its steeple and dropped it into the church, crushing the walls.

In just six hours on March 28, 1984, a total of 22 twisters tore through North and South Carolina, killing 57 people, injuring more than 1,200 and causing $578 million in damage. It remains the largest tornado outbreak to hit North Carolina in at least 100 years.

The deadly storm claimed two lives in Red Springs, including a 2-year-old girl, and left 300 injured.

“I walked down where the organ was, and there was a piece of sheet music that was still sitting up on the organ,” Red Spring resident Chip Watson recalled. “With 200-plus mile an hour winds coming through that night, yet that piece of sheet music sat there.”

Red Springs Presbyterian Church will hold a special memorial service Sunday for parishioners to share their memories of the day that changed the lives of so many.

James Melvin was in his house, watching as the storm approached. His home was spared, but the trees in his backyard were ripped apart.

"It sounded like you poured a gallon of milk on a big bowl of Rice Krispies – and they were gone,” he said.

George Paris was mayor back then. The tornado caused $2.5 million in damage to the town.

“The impact of it really didn’t settle in till probably about three months later and you got to thinking about, ‘Well, you will never see this again. You’ll never see this huge oak tree or you’ll never see this home,’” he said.
 

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  • westoflyra Mar 28, 2014

    I remember that Wednesday night very well. A tornado touched down in the West Mount section of Rocky Mount. The clouds earlier that day reminded of the sky at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz just before the tornado.