Local News

2 Dead, Many Injured as Tornados Sweep Across Triangle

Posted March 19, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— Deadly and dangerous storms swept across the Triangle Friday night. One of the hardest hit parts of the state appears to be in Rockingham County. At least two people were killed and 21 injured when a tornado flattened the town of Stoneville.

The downtown strip took a direct hit from the storm. Churches, homes and other buildings in downtown Stoneville were heavily damaged and rescuers went door-to-door looking for the injured. Thousands of people are without power in the county.

It's also confirmed a tornado touched down in Bahama in northern Durham County. WRAL's Debra Morgan describes the heavy rain, hail and the sighting of a funnel cloud near the Person County border.

As many as five storms came through the small town, dropping quarter-sized hail from the sky. The Person County Sheriff reports some damage in the northern part of the county, but no injuries. As of 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Duke Energy reports 2,600 of its customers in that area are still without power.

Early reports of damage came from the South Raleigh and Garner areas where a tornado reportedly touched down. WRAL's Mark Roberts, reporting from Highway 70 in Garner, says trees and power lines now cover roads in the area and a power outage has left thousands of residents in the dark.

Roberts explains how the steeple from the First Church of the Nazarene was ripped from it's rooftop.

Even through there's a lot of damage to the church, Pastor Riley Powell says they could have lost a lot more.

South Side Auto Mart, located across the street from the church, has been reduced to broken glass and rubble. Mark Oldham witnessed the destruction.

A crowded hotel near the church and dealership was spared of any damage.

At about 6:50 p.m., Jack Edwards, a WRAL employee and Garner resident spoke live on the air about his experience with a tornado.

Earlier this evening 8,400 to 9,000 people were without power in the Garner area. CP&L reports about 3,500 of its customers are still in the dark. Power is expected to be restored by 3:00 a.m. Saturday. Crews are being hampered by the number of downed trees.

High winds and blinding rain swept through Raleigh causing some tense moments for drivers, like Kelly Brown, who were near Rocky Quarry Road just before 7:00 p.m.

Repair crews were busy restoring downed power lines at Wake Medical Center in Raleigh. The hospital lost its primary power for 20 minutes. Backup generators powered the hospital during that time.

In the hospital parking lot, cars were tossed like toys. 20 to 25 cars were flipped or moved over to spaces they were not originally parked in and many of the car windows were punched out. No one was hurt by the severe weather that went through the hospital area. Debra Morgan,Robert Meikle,John Cox