1984 Carolinas tornado outbreak
|Date of tornado outbreak:||March 28, 1984|
|Duration1:||~ 10 hours|
|Maximum rated tornado2:||F4 tornado|
|Damages:||+$578 million (non-normalized)|
|Fatalities:||57 deaths, 1248 injuries|
|Areas affected:||Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia|
1Time from first tornado to last tornado
The 1984 Carolinas tornado outbreak of March 28, 1984 was the most destructive tornado outbreak to sweep through the two states since the Enigma tornado outbreak struck 100 years and 1 month earlier, according to NOAA and NCDC public records.
Weather records from March 28 indicate that an earlier tornado watch had been issued covering Northern Alabama and Georgia, and small tornadoes were reported in Barrow County (2:25 P.M., Eastern Standard Time) and Henry County (2:30 P.M., EST) in north Georgia. The first severe reports from North Carolina - golf-ball sized hail reports from Macon County, NC also occurred at this time. Severe storms began entering Western South Carolina by mid-afternoon, and tornado watches had been issued for most of South Carolina, North Carolina and a portion of Virginia.
|F#||Location||County||Time (EST)||Path length||Damage|
|F1||Barrow||Barrow||03:25||12 miles (19 km)
||1 Injury. Tornado in Barrow County W of Athens.|
|F0||Henry||Henry||04:30||1-mile (1.6 km)
||Very brief touchdown SE of Atlanta.|
|F1||Due West||Abbeville||04:30||3 miles (4.8 km)
||24 Injuries. Brief touchdown.|
|F2||Ware Shoals||Laurens||04:40||18 miles (29 km)
||43 Injuries. Tornado moved between Ware Shoals and Laurens. 500 acres (2.0 km2) of timber was destroyed. 1 Death and 14 Injuries were also produced by non-tornadic damage in the Fountain Inn area of NW Laurens County.|
|F2||1st Newberry||Newberry||05:20||23 miles (37 km)
||1 Death, 38 Injuries. Large F2 tornado moved NE through downtown Newberry. The path of this storm was 3/4 of a mile in width in places.|
|F3||2nd Newberry||Newberry||05:40||19 miles (31 km)
||10 Injuries. Intense tornado touched down just east of downtown Newberry, and moved to the east. The two Newberry tornadoes destroyed 254 houses, 86 businesses, 45 trailers, 68 farm buildings, 7 large public buildings, and generated a total of $14,200,000 in damage.|
|F4||Winnsboro||Fairfield||06:00||21 miles (34 km)||5 Deaths, 49 Injuries. F4 tornado moved east through the northern edge of Winnsboro before crossing I-77, parallel to the previous tornado along much of its path; the circulation was up to 1.15-mile (1.85 km) in width. One death in a truck that was blown from the interstate. 40 homes leveled. Substantial downburst damage linked the paths of this and the subsequent three tornadoes.|
|F4||Kershaw||Kershaw, Lancaster||06:20||4 miles (6.4 km)
||36 Injuries. Massive timber damage reported S of Kershaw, with one nearby neighborhood destroyed.|
|F2||9 miles (14 km) north of McBee||Chesterfield||06:40||2 miles (3.2 km)
||Tornado touched down in the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, producing timber damage.|
|F4||Cash||Chesterfield||06:45||7 miles (11 km)
||24 Injuries. Tornado touched down 8 miles (13 km) SW of Cheraw, and destroyed several homes in the community of Cash before dissipating along the Pee Dee River W of Bennettsville. -see section on this storm|
|F4||Bennettsville SC (1st), Fletcher SC, Johns NC||Marlboro SC, Scotland NC||07:10||17 miles (27 km)
||7 Deaths, 100 Injuries. Tornado touched down very near the endpoint of the previous tornado, passing through N Bennettsville before dissipating near Laurinburg. Crossing the NC/SC line, it's area of circulation grew to 2 miles (3.2 km) in width. The Northwoods Shopping Center in Bennettsville was leveled. --see section on this storm|
|F4||Bennettsville SC (2nd), McColl SC, Maxton NC, Red Springs NC, Shannon NC, Parkton NC||Marlboro SC, Scotland NC,||07:20||45 miles (72 km)
||4 Deaths, 395 Injuries. Tornado touched down in SE Bennettsville, causing additional destruction in the town. Tornado was 2+ miles wide in places, and it paralleled the previous tornado at distances of less than 5 miles (8.0 km) to the state line. Damage in McColl and Red Springs was extreme. Every undestroyed building in the town of Red Springs received at least F1 damage. -see section on this storm|
|F2||west of Loris SC to Beaverdam NC||Horry SC, Columbus NC||09:35||16 miles (26 km)
||8 Injuries. Tornado touched down NW of Conway, and was isolated from other tornado families in this outbreak. Tornado passed close to Loris, SC and Tabor City, NC.|
|F1||Fairview||Union||06:10||0.5-mile (0.80 km)||Brief touchdown in northern Union County, in the Fairview community. This storm had produced large hail and wind damage reports across south Charlotte and Matthews shortly before this tornado.|
|F3||Roseboro, Salemburg||Bladen, Cumberland, Sampson||07:45||40 miles (64 km)
||12 Deaths, 101 Injuries in Roseboro, Salemburg and Clinton. Storm leveled a huge area of forest and destroyed several houses in the Beaverdam community. Storm was nearly a mile wide.|
|F2||Rocky Mount||Nash||08:10||2 miles (3.2 km)
||F2 damage on the SW edge of Rocky Mount.|
|F4||Faison, Mount Olive||Sampson, Duplin, Wayne||08:15||21 miles (34 km)
||3 Deaths, 149 Injuries. Strong F4 damage in the towns of Faison, Calypso and Mount Olive; damage path was up to 3/4 of a mile in width. Tornado passed directly through the campus of Mount Olive College, which sustained very severe damage. This and the previous Sampson County storm (two above) generated $25,000,000 in damage in that county alone.|
|F3||between LaGrange and Walnut Creek||Wayne, Lenoir||08:30||9 miles (14 km)
||81 Injuries. Storm passed along the SE edge of LaGrange, destroying several homes.|
|F4||Winterville, Ayden, Greenville||Wayne, Lenoir, Greene, Pitt||08:45||46 miles (74 km)
||16 Deaths, 153 Injuries. Tornado was up to 3/4 of a mile in width. Fatalities in Snow Hill, Winterville, Ayden & Greenville, where the southeastern suburbs and portions of the campus of East Carolina University experienced severe damage. 300 homes were leveled, most in Greenville.|
|F3||Lewiston Woodville||Bertie||08:55||6 miles (9.7 km)
||6 Deaths, 19 Injuries. NW corner of Bertie County; tornado circulation was up to 1/2-mile (3.2 km) wide. Deaths were at a trailer park in the path of the storm. $5,000,000 in damage.|
|F2||Ahoskie||Bertie, Hertford||09:10||5 miles (8.0 km)
||7 Injuries. F2 damage in Ahoskie.|
|F1||E of Cambridge||Hertford||09:17||1-mile (1.6 km)
||Damage near Harrellsville and the Wiccacon River.|
|F3||Gatesville||Gates||09:37||14 miles (23 km)
||2 Deaths, 10 Injuries. Several houses destroyed along mostly rural path through southern Gates County. Wind damage reports continued into rural parts of the city of Chesapeake, VA.|
|F2||Snug Harbor||Chowan, Perquimans||10:15||6 miles (9.7 km)
||1 Death, 1 Injury. Southeast of Edenton; the last tornado of the outbreak. Began as a tornadic waterspout over the Albemarle Sound.|
|All deaths were tornado-related|
The first tornado report in South Carolina was in Abbeville County, at 3:30 P.M. This became the first in what evolved into a strengthening family of tornadoes that left damage along a path over 300 miles (480 km) long in two states. Ten minutes later, a tornado was confirmed in neighboring Laurens County. Within an hour, significant (F2 and F3 - see Fujita scale) damage was reported from two tornadoes reported twenty minutes apart in the Newberry area. An even stronger tornado, rated F4, then moved from Newberry County into Fairfield County. This storm skirted the northern edge of Winnsboro, before crossing (and briefly closing) I-77. Shortly thereafter, F4 tornado damage was noted in Lancaster County, SC and Chesterfield County, SC. $14 million in damage was recorded in and around Newberry and Winnsboro, with severe, widespread damage seen in downtown Newberry and along the northern edge of Winnsboro. At the same time, the first tornado report from North Carolina was recorded - a weak F1 tornado that briefly touched down in Union County, North Carolina between Charlotte and Monroe.
Bennettsville to Red Springs tornadoes
At 5:45 P.M., another F4 tornado was reported in Chesterfield County, near the community of Cash, South Carolina. This storm dissipated as it moved towards Marlboro County, SC, and was quickly followed by another F4, just to the southeast, in Marlboro County. This storm - a very large, multiple-vortex tornado, formed 6 miles (9.7 km) WNW of Bennettsville, passing through the northwest part of the city, where the Northwoods Shopping Center was leveled. After producing deaths in the rural communities of Fletcher and Lester (just north of Bennettsville), the storm moved into Scotland County, North Carolina and disspiated as it approached Laurinburg; the damage path at the state line was officially recorded at 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in width, though researchers noted a 2-mile (3.2 km) width. Ten minutes later, yet another F4 tornado was reported in Marlboro County, forming in or near the SE edge of Bennettsville, before striking Tatum and McColl, SC en route to the North Carolina state line; most structures in the two towns were destroyed. This multiple-vortex storm also crossed part of Scotland County, and then Robeson County in North Carolina, striking Maxton (where a subdivision was destroyed) and Red Springs, where every building inside the city limits was damaged or destroyed, with F1 or F2 damage seen in every building left standing. This storm barely missed the town of Lumber Bridge, before weakening as it passed through Parkton. The tornado then dissipated in southern Cumberland County, after crossing I-95 and passing southeast of Hope Mills.
This trio of storms produced a total of 11 deaths and 519 injuries; both Marlboro County storms left damage paths at (or over) 2 miles (3.2 km) in width in places, with at least 800 left homeless in Bennettsville.
Eastern North Carolina
11 additional tornadoes were subsequently reported in Eastern North Carolina, between 7:00 P.M. and 10:30 P.M. F3 damage was recorded at Salemburg, east of Fayetteville, and F4 damage was noted at Mount Olive, NC and in the Greenville, NC area. 3 deaths and 149 injuries occurred in Mount Olive, where the downtown and portions of the Mount Olive College campus sustained severe damage. Another 16 deaths and 153 injuries were caused by the Greenville tornado, which swept through the south and southeast sections of town (along with portions of the East Carolina University campus) after producing severe damage in Greene County, Winterville and Ayden. The outbreak ended just south of the Chesapeake, VA area with additional strong tornadoes striking Ahoskie and Gates County in North Carolina; straight-line wind damage continued along a path into Chesapeake.
Ultimately this outbreak was responsible for 57 deaths, 1248 injuries, and confirmed tornado damage in 2 counties in Georgia, 8 counties in South Carolina, and 17 counties in North Carolina, according to data from the National Weather Service and the National Climatic Data Center records and statistical data.
This was an unusual East Coast outbreak both in its sustained intensity, and in some of its meteorological specifics. It has been noted by Grazulis and other researchers that this outbreak developed near the center of a large-scale low, in a fashion resembling the 1925 Tri-State tornado. In this outbreak, the damage path was attributed to separate tornadoes, though one storm produced (along a rough, 250+ mile track) a family of 13 large tornadoes - 10 of which produced F3 or F4 damage, which were occasionally linked by swaths of downburst damage.
This outbreak was also part of a larger storm system that was responsible for producing severe weather across a much wider area of the eastern U.S. On the previous day, weaker tornadoes had been reported in scattered locations from Louisiana to Alabama, and a thunderstorm-caused flash flood was suspected to be the cause of a train derailment in north Florida. The northern part of the same system first spawned additional severe (non-tornadic) thunderstorms, which caused 4 additional deaths in Maryland and Pennsylvania, before then dropping snow, sleet and ice across a wide area of the northeast. The thunderstorms which produced the tornado outbreak were also responsible (according to the same data) for numerous reports of large hail and wind damage in Appalachian southwest North Carolina, and numerous larger cities (Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, Columbia, SC, Charlotte, North Carolina, Fayetteville, NC, Raleigh, North Carolina, Suffolk, VA, Norfolk, VA) at the periphery of the outbreak, with wind damage from thunderstorms reported as far north as Delaware.
- List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
- Fujita scale
- http://www.wwaytv3.com/video/looking_back_1984_red_springs_tornado/03 - Anniversary video focusing on the Red Springs tornado, including footage of damage done to the town
- http://wwwcache.wral.com/weather/video/4832511/ - Second look at the Red Springs storm
- http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1461260.html - Raleigh News & Observer 25th anniversary feature focusing on the Bennettsville and Red Springs storms
- http://www.weather.com/blog/weather/8_19104.html?from=blog_rss&cm_ven=BLOG&cm_cat=rss&cm_pla=blog - Weather Channel blog post detailing the outbreak, with some meteorological information
- Syracuse Post-Herald, Syracuse, New York. March 29, 1984, page A5
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (1991). Significant Tornadoes 1880-1989, page 647-648, Environmental Films, St. Johnsbury, VT.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (2001). The Tornado, page 203, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
- Syracuse Herald-Journal, Syracuse, New York. March 29, 1984, page 81.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (1991). Significant Tornadoes 1880-1989, page 648, Environmental Films, St. Johnsbury, VT
- Syracuse Herald Journal, Syracuse, New York. March 29, 1984.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (2001). The Tornado, page 203, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
- Fujita, T.T., and Stiegler, D. (1985). "Detailed analysis of the tornado outbreak in the Carolinas by using radar, satellite, and aerial survey data. Preprints", 14th Conference on Severe Local Storms, Indianapolis. American Meteorological Society, p. 271-274.
- Kraft, Scott, and Timothy Harper. (April 1, 1984). "Wreckage, victims tell tornado's tale on 450-mile route", Associated Press. Syracuse Herald-American, page 16, Syracuse, New York.