WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Tar Heel Tornadoes

Posted March 3, 2010 11:28 a.m. EST
Updated March 3, 2010 11:34 a.m. EST

An active winter to an active spring? Let's hope not since it is one thing to deal with snow and a completely different situation dealing with springtime thunderstorms that can dish out lightning, hail, and even deadly tornadoes. Tornadoes are destructive and deadly, with North Carolina averaging 13 tornadoes per year.  Those tornadoes kill two and injure 42 in an average year.

We are heading into our severe weather season in North Carolina, March, April and May and then a secondary, brief season in November. The most deadly month for tornadoes has been March and November with these months seeing monster tornadoes that have been destructive and deadly. For example in March of 1984 we saw what has become the benchmark for the largest and most devastating tornado outbreak in our state. March 28, 1984 saw an outbreak that produced 22 tornadoes in North and South Carolina killing 57 people, including 42 in North Carolina with 15 in South Carolina and injuring another 800! The tornadoes tracked through Red Springs in Robeson county in the southern part of the state and then flourished through the Coastal Plain affecting Keanansville, Kinston and Greenville.

In November of 1988 – ironically also on the 28th of the month – a powerful and deadly tornado tore through north Raleigh, killing four people and injuring 157 others. This tornado tracked through Wake county and continued on through Franklin, Nash, and Halifax counties before dissipating.

What is disturbing about this storm and many others that have occured over the years is that it happened at night. The Raleigh tornado struck at 1am as most of us were fast asleep, catching us off guard. Most of North Carolina's tornado fatalities have occured at night. In fact, 81% have been nighttime fatalities! We have the dubious honor of ranking number one in the nation for nighttime tornado fatalities.

As we go through severe weather awareness week, we want folks to realize the potential for severe weather and potential for its deadly outcome. This means that you need to pay particularly close attention to the weather there is a risk of severe for severe storms, especially at night.  A NOAA All-Hazards Radio can be a great help to inform you of severe weather.  An more precise way to get warning information 24/7 is WRAL WeatherCall, a new system that monitors your location and lets you know when you are in the direct path of a tornado or severe thunderstorm, as outlined by the National Weather Service in their warning products.  We have more information about WRAL WeatherCall, and you can sign up instantly.