Weather Service: Supercells produced 25 NC tornadoes

Posted April 19, 2011

— Twelve supercell thunderstorms produced at least 25 tornadoes across North Carolina on Saturday, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

The outbreak was the largest collection of tornadoes in the state in 27 years, according meteorologist Jeff Orrock with the weather service.

Many of the storms produced families of tornadoes, spawning one after another, Orrock said. Five of the tornadoes were EF3 storms, with wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph.

Eight more were EF2 tornadoes, with wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph. Another eight were EF1, with wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph, and four were EF0, with wind speeds of 65 to 86 mph.

The first tornado struck Union Ridge and Bethel Hill in Alamance and Person counties between 2 and 3 p.m. The Sanford-Broadway-Raleigh tornado tracked from Sanford through Holly Springs and Raleigh from 2:53 to 4 p.m. The Fayetteville-Dunn-Benson-Micro-Wilson tornadoes struck from 3:40 to 5 p.m. The Roanoke Rapids tornado hit at about 5:20 p.m.

debris field Radar shows tornado debris

Orrock said the event rivals the record March 28, 1984, tornado outbreak, which also produced 25 tornadoes in one day and led to 42 fatalities statewide. That outbreak affected about 20 counties in eastern North Carolina, while Saturday's outbreak hit at least 32 counties and resulted in 23 deaths, he said.

Raleigh Tornado 4/11 Photos, video: Storm damage across central NC

Initial reports indicate more than 130 homes were destroyed and more than 700 damaged statewide, some severely. Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency on Saturday, and she said she expects a federal disaster declaration by Thursday, clearing the way for affected residents, businesses and municipalities to apply for aid.

The disaster declaration would cover the 18 hardest-hit counties: Bertie, Bladen, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wilson counties.

“Many families have simply been devastated by these storms,” Perdue said in a statement. “As I visited with many of them during the past few days, I’ve pledged to them that we’re going to do all we can to help them get back on their feet as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I ask all North Carolinians to keep these survivors in your prayers, volunteer your time to help those in need and donate money or goods as you are able.”

The governor has set up a fund to provide financial assistance for victims of the tornadoes and storms. The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund will accept monetary donations and is managed by the Governor’s Office in partnership with the United Way of North Carolina. Donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of donated funds will go to survivors.


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  • hfweather Apr 20, 2011

    reason why i said shelters was nc was put on high alert at 11am by the nws,gives u plenty of time to get there.rather be safe than sorry,and yes other states do this as well.oh and by the way,last time nc was on high risk alert was march 28,1984.

  • barhams07 Apr 20, 2011

    I have to say we have some dang good weather men here in the Raleigh area!! They were on top of everything and are some life savers.

  • Mike Moss Apr 20, 2011

    Also thought I'd note when it comes to the comparisons to the 1984 outbreak, the one this year was spread over a notably larger portion of the state, and involved quite a few more tornadoes (26 on Saturday versus 14 in 1984 - there were also 8 in South Carolina that year for a total "Carolinas Outbreak" of 22 tornadoes). The higher end storms in this year's outbreak rated EF3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, while the 1984 swarm included 4 tornadoes that peaked at F4 ratings on the older Fujita scale. Bottom line is that both were very powerful outbreaks by the usual standards of severe weather in our state.

  • Mike Moss Apr 20, 2011

    To address a couple of quick questions here. First, regarding when there is a "new" tornado from the same supercell. The criteria that NWS attempts to apply is that a tornado that stays off the ground for less than 5 minutes time or 2.5 miles of distance is considered the same tornado but a different segment, while a time of more than 5 minutes or a distance of more than 2.5 miles to the next touchdown/damage area is treated as a "new" tornado.

    As someone noted, there can be many more real-time tornado reports (sightings, damage reports, etc) that are collected and disseminated by local NWS offices and the Storm Prediction Center than there are actual tornadoes, due to duplicate reports associated with a single twister. The NWS sorts this out later with teams on the ground doing surveys, which is how the number of tornadoes in NC on Saturday has now been set at 26 (an update from the story above, and still potentially subject to change).

  • abbott134 Apr 20, 2011

    Dtech, Thats what I'm talking about. That tornado started at the bladen/cumberland line killing 3 people. It was airborne for several miles and touched down again in beaver dam passing within 500 yards of my home. After going airborne again it touched down on 242 near mill creek church before heading toward clinton. They said it was F2 but every home that took a direct hit in beaver dam was leveled, nothing left but the foundation. In my opinion had this storm gone thru fayetteville hundreds would have died.

  • dtech2 Apr 19, 2011

    Yes wral weather team done a excellence job of coverage

  • dtech2 Apr 19, 2011

    What about the path of the tornado that went trough sampson county
    Roseboro, Clinton area

  • puggybelle Apr 19, 2011

    When are we going to get news on what companies and businesses were damaged or destroyed? To watch the news, you'd think the only business destroyed in Sanford is the Lowe's store. Local paper did an interview with our mayor who expressed shock after seeing several plants that belong to Static Control Components in Sanford totally devastated.

    Were those plants wiped out? I believe Static Control is one of the biggest employers in the entire state, much less Sanford/Lee County. Did people lose their jobs? Who else got hit? I hope there's a lot more reporting to come.

  • rescuefan Apr 19, 2011

    brangkeri, I spent my first 9 years in Grand Ledge, Michigan and I remember the sirens. The fact is, you have to adapt to where you live. The news had stories leading up to Saturday saying that we could be in for some nasty weather. If you choose not to watch TV, get on the internet or listen to the radio, then you won't know what's going on. Heck, as the storms rolled in, I had the TV, radio and internet on so I could keep on top of them. Oh, and I had weather call, so my cell and home phones were ringing off the hook!

    And WRAL did a fabulous job!

  • Suasponte Apr 19, 2011

    Made In USA,

    I agree with your comments completely. Obviously WRAL and the NWS were not paying attention when the tornadoes held their press conference and handed out their itinerary and planed routes of attack. That map with stick pins would have helped my wife and I so much better than the weather alert radio that sent us to our preplanned shelter just prior to the storm hitting. Da.