Weather

Weather Service: Supercells produced 25 NC tornadoes

Posted April 19, 2011 12:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2011 6:48 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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.