36 Years Ago: Carolinas Tornado Outbreak

Saturday marks 36 years since one of the largest tornado outbreaks in recorded weather history for North and South Carolina.  Twenty-two tornadoes ripped through both states on March 28, 1984. Fifty-seven people were killed, and some reports estimate another 1,200 were injured.

One of the first tornadoes that afternoon was reported in Newberry, South Carolina. An F2 tornado destroyed several buildings along the small town’s Main Street including a dance academy where students survived the storm huddled under a staircase.  One person was killed at an automotive supply store nearby.

The first tornado to strike North Carolina that day was an F4 tornado that moved into Scotland County from Marlboro County, South Carolina. A second F4 tornado formed just east of that tornado and tracked toward the town of Red Springs in Robeson County. One person was killed by that tornado and 280 were injured. Almost every building in Red Springs sustained some type of damage.

Another F4 tornado ripped across Sampson, Duplin, and Wayne Counties. Three people were killed by this tornado that left a path of destruction as much as 0.75 mile wide. Mount Olive College reported extensive damage.

The deadliest tornado that day was an F4 tornado that formed over Wayne, Lenoir, Greene, and Pitt Counties killing sixteen. This tornado also left a path of destruction as much as 0.75 mile wide across Snow Hill, Winterville, Ayden, and Greenville. An estimated 300 homes were destroyed by this single tornado. Damage was reported across the campus of East Carolina University.

The Carolinas outbreak had been the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history for the state until 2011. The April 16 tornado outbreak that year produced 30 tornadoes across North Carolina.