March 28  1984 Carolinas Tornado Outbreak
under construction
last modified January 26 2009  0519 GMT


Jonathan Finch
National Weather Service
Dodge City, KS
(Jonathan's personal website)

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submit photos or storm stories from March 28, 1984 ------>   hugehail@yahoo.com 

***Please note that this site is still under construction. Spelling and grammatical errors undoubtedly exist***


Introduction

This web page (currently in its infancy) will be devoted to the infamous tornado outbreak of March 28, 1984. In addition to a detailed independently established time line, damage pictures, google earth damage paths, radar imagery, personal accounts, newspaper accounts...etc, a detailed meteorological study is also presented including satellite loops, detailed surface map loops, accurate upper air charts, sounding and wind shear approximations and much more. 

On March 28, 1984 at 1:50 pm EST, a thunderstorm developed in Randolph county in eastern Alabama, or about 60 miles west-southwest of Atlanta. This parent thunderstorm, despite taking on different sizes, shapes and dimensions, was the same convective system that weakened around 10:30 pm along the eastern seaboard after killing 36 people in North Carolina and 13 people in South Carolina. This storm became a tornado producer between Athens and Atlanta and a prolific tornado producer around 5 pm in western SC, and continued producing tornadoes one after another through eastern North Carolina until 10:30 pm. The last person claimed by this storm was in Perquimans county, NC--southwest of Elizabeth City. Very large hail occurred with the storm, including tennis ball sized hail south of Elberton, GA and baseball size in northern SC. Large hail also occurred in North Carolina but the focus was on the tornadoes and not on documenting hail. It is very rare indeed for a parent storm to survive over 8 hours and 550 miles. The average forward speed of the convective system from birth to death was an amazing 65 mph!! This is one reason why people had little time to escape the storm. A storm motion of 65 mph is definitely on the extreme high end of possible storm motions for violent tornadic storms. Storms in the southeast United States tend to occur in the cool season when the jet stream is strong--hence the swift storm motions. Tornadic storms in the Great Plains of the United States tend to move slower and occur later in the spring on average. Another storm developed between Laurinburg and Fayetteville and produced very large hail in southern and central NC (golfball to baseball size) before becoming tornadic around Rocky Mount. This storm was situated north-northeast of the main event and  produced a series of strong tornadoes in northeastern North Carolina and extreme southeastern Virginia, killing 9 people.

I am developing detailed paths of the tornadoes and hail occurrences in Google Maps. I also plan to use Google Earth since Google maps had limited icons and features. To accomplish this, I used the original storm data and newspaper accounts as well as the old NWS assessment. However, I also made phone calls to the affected areas and refined the paths. People that were in the path of this monster storm tend to remember it. I called a man that was mentioned in a newspaper article from Elberton, GA. His wife answered the phone and said her husband was deceased. However, as soon as I mentioned a storm in 1984, she instantly told me that she would never forget that storm. She told me that she remembered the tennis ball sized hail and apparent tornado damage. Also, the official times given for several of the tornadoes were not accurate. I was able to find clock stoppage times at several locations to help pinpoint the time line. Then I was able to calculate the speed of the tornadic storm. To view storm details, just use the +/- bar on the left side of google maps, then click on the blue pushpins to see the details.

How many tornadoes occurred on March 28, 1984? Does it really matter? It is unwise to get fixated on the number of tornadoes that occur in a given outbreak. It is the intensity, path length, and path width or tornadoes that are important. For example,  a single tornado that is 1/2 mile wide and on the ground doing F4 damage for 50 miles is far more capable of being lethal than a family of 20 tornadoes (mostly rated F0, F1 or F2 with perhaps 1 brief F4) that skip (not continuously on the ground) across the same 50 mile stretch. So whether there were 5, 10, 20 or 30 tornadoes means very little to me. What is a "tornado outbreak"? How many tornadoes constitute a tornado outbreak? How many tornadic storms constitute an outbreak?  Does there have to be a certain number of tornadoes in an event for the event to be classified as a tornado outbreak? If  a storm produces a 1/2 mile wide F4 tornado with a path length of 100 miles and another storm produces 20 tornadoes (1 F4 and 19 F1's) over this same 100 mile path,  which event would be classified as a tornado outbreak? Perhaps the intensity of an event has little to do with whether the event is technically an outbreak. You can be sure that the news media would have a field day explaining that 20 tornadoes occurred as if the number really mattered.


Satellite Loops

Satellite loops were created using images from the CLASS website. Dan Bikos of CIRA (Cooperative Institute for Research of the Atmosphere) in Fort Collins, CO provided help in capturing these images. I made this  loops using the "convert" command in AWIPS. The visible loop shows the progression of the primary storm cluster from birth to just before dark. The infrared loops show the entire life cycle of the storms.



Radar Data/Loops

Two radar loops from the Wilmington, NC radar were created using radar data on microfilm provided by NCDC. To accomplish this, I visited the local public library in Dodge City, KS and displayed the radar data on a microfilm reader. Then I took digital still pictures of each image from 2347 UTC until 0144 UTC. The images were available every minute. However, I  only used about 25% of the images due to concerns about download time. Also, the program I used to create the loops do not support 100+ frame loops. I had to change microfilm rolls at a very inopportune time. There was a 35 minute gap in the radar data from the 1st roll to the 2nd. So I made a 2nd shorter loop starting at 0223 UTC. The first loop shows the storm moving from Cash, SC to just southwest of La Grange, NC. The 2nd loop shows the storm moving from just southwest of Pactolus, NC to northeast of Pactolus.


Meteorological Discussion

New!! Animated 1-hourly surface charts from 15 to 05 UTC 

slow     medium     fast

    Synoptic Overview

On March 27 to March 28 1984, a very intense and progressive shortwave trough and associated jet streak migrated from the southern Rockies into the southeast United States to the eastern seaboard. The circulation around the surface cyclone covered the eastern 1/2 or 2/3 of the continental United States. A sub-synoptic surface low pressure center raced east-northeast across the deep south and into the southern Mid-Atlantic region during the afternoon and evening of the 28th. The flow at all levels was very strong, leading to very fast storm motion. A thunderstorm developed in eastern Alabama near the surface low around 1:50 pm. The primary supercell storm stayed immediately ahead of the sub-synoptic low and raced east-northeast at 65 mph through 10:30 pm. Loops of the 500mb and 300mb charts demonstrate how this system progressed across the country.

   
   
    March 26


On the evening of March 26, a large upper trough was centered over the high plains and eastern Rockies. A very strong 500 mb jet was positioned along the back side of the trough, indicating the trough was still digging.  This is even more evident on the 300 mb chart that showed 120-140+ kt jet winds from the pacific northwest into western NV. A surface front extended from just south of Tampa, Florida to the Texas Gulf coast. Dewpoints along and south of this boundary were near 70F as evidenced by the observations at Brownsville and Miami. So rich moisture was only a few hundred miles away from north GA.  Sea level pressures were down to around 996 mb in the lee of the southern and central Rockies.
   
   
    March 27


By  12 UTC March 27,  a strong shortwave trough was located over the southern Rockies with 110 kt 500 mb winds at Las Vegas and 100 kt winds at Tuscon and El Paso. The upper trough still had a slight positive tilt. 300 mb windspeeds near the core of the jet were around 120 to 125 kts at Ely and Tonopah, NV. Jet winds were also fairly strong from central and south TX into the Carolinas (90 to 110kts). Rich moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was advancing northward to the Gulf Coast. The surface dewpoints at Boothville in southeast Louisiana and Tampa, FL were up to 68F and 71F respectively.

By the afternoon of March 27, a neutrally tilted 500 mb trough was located over West Texas. 500 mb winds were not sampled very well in central TX, but were likely around 100kts.  The 300 mb jet core now extended from El Paso to southern MS, with 120 to 140kt winds. 700 mb winds were 50kts or greater from the Texas Big Bend to southern GA. The 21 UTC surface chart (to be completed) shows rich moisture from the panhandle of Florida to central LA and southern MS to the south of a warm front, with dewpoints in the mid to upper 60s F. Surface pressures were down to around 988 mb in north TX. A surface dryline extended from just east of Brownsville, TX northward along the Gulf Coast. In fact, the temperature at Brownsville was a staggering 106F with a dewpoint of 42F!! Severe storms including very large hail and tornadoes occurred during the afternoon in north Texas, with the most severe storm occurring northwest, north and northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  This severe weather occurred outside of the classic warm sector (north of the surface low), where colder 500mb temperatures existed and where 58-60F surface dewpoints resided.

   
    Evening of March 27


A warm front slowly pushed north from north Florida into southern Georgia during the evening hours. At  03 UTC the front stretched from south of Jacksonville, FL to just north of Dothan, AL. The stationary part of the front continued northwestward to near Greenwood, MS. An outflow boundary from storms was progressing southeastward through far western MS and  northern LA. Surface dewpoints were generally between 67 and 70F south of the front. A cold front was moving through eastern TX with another stronger cold front moving through the DFW area. 

At 06 UTC the eastern end of a warm front extended from north of Jacksonville to just south of Valdosta to just north of Tuscaloosa, AL. An outflow boundary continued to move through Mississippi. The two cold fronts continued to move across TX and LA.

 
    Early Morning of March 28


By 09 UTC March 28, the eastern end of the front in the deep south was still progressing northeastward and stretched from the GA coast to near La Grange, GA. The outflow boundary was progressing southeast through Alabama. The first of 2 cold fronts had passed through New Orleans. The 2nd cold front stretched across central and western LA.


    12 UTC March 28

The 12 upper air charts showed an extremely intense shortwave trough progressing rapidly across the southern United States. The center of the trough was over northeast Arkansas. 500 mb winds were 80 to 90 kts across the deep south. The sounding at Athens, GA was apparently contaminated by convection. A band of 60+kt 700 mb winds extended from east TX into southern MS and AL. The 850mb chart showed 50-60 kt flow at 850mb from the southwest with 11 to 13C dewpoints.

 
    
Mid to local noon March 28

An outflow boundary caused by early morning convection was starting to retreat northward in Alabama but was still stationary over Georgia.. I decided to draw this in an a warm front since its horizontal dimensions were now on the synoptic scale. At 15 UTC the boundary stretched from southern Alabama into central Georgia. I also decided to draw this boundary continuous with the previous warm front that surged into the Carolinas overnight. While high surface dewpoints existed from Alabama eastward to the eastern seaboard, the highest dewpoints (68 to 72F) were located further east from eastern SC into eastern GA and Florida. By 17 UTC, the warm front has progressed north of Montgomery, AL and Columbus, GA. A cluster of thunderstorms was about to initiate  near Augusta around 17 UTC near the weak surface front.


    18-20 UTC (1-3 pm EST)

A deep surface low pressure system developed between 18 and 20 UTC. The central pressure of the low dropped from about 985 mb to about 978 mb. Prior to this rapid deepening, the surface low embedded in the much larger scale low was much less progressive. However, a deepening and acceleration of the low occurred simultaneously. Between 18 and 19 UTC the surface low moved from central Alabama to far eastern Alabama and deepened from 985 to 982 mb. Between 19 and 20 UTC the low progressed from eastern Alabama to just east of Atlanta and deepened from 982 to 978 mb. The low developed inside of a much larger scale, surface low pressure system that spanned much of the eastern United States. The aforementioned storm cluster that developed near Augusta at 17 UTC continued to the east-northeast and reinforced the weak frontal boundary across South Carolina. The storm cluster responsible for much of the severe weather on March 28 developed in far eastern AL at 1950 UTC (1:50 pm EST) immediately ahead of the surface low. There were reports of 1 inch hail in the Atlanta metro area around 3 pm EST with the passage of the surface low. The severe weather occurred immediately ahead of the low along the warm front where the vertical wind shear was maximized. Surface based CAPE values across north GA were around 2000 j/kg. 


    21-22 UTC (4-5 pm EST)

By 21 UTC the center of the surface low was just east of Athens, GA with a central pressure of about 976 mb. The surface warm front or retreating outflow boundary was about to move northward through Columbia, SC. The T/TD at Augusta, GA were 83F/65F with strong south winds at 20 kts. Surface based CAPE values were approaching 3000 j/kg ahead of the surface low. Located just north of the front, the T/TD at Columbia were 74F/65F with light east winds. So surface based CAPE values immediately north of the front were about 2000 j/kg. Severe storms intensified after passing east of the Atlanta metro area. Hail as large as tennis balls and several tornadoes caused extensive damage in central and east Georgia. The first of a several member family of strong to violent tornadoes touched down west of Newberry around 5:06 pm. Golfball to baseball sized hail accompanied the storm in Newberry.


    23-00 UTC (6-7 pm EST)

The surface low continued to race east-northeast at 65 mph through 00 UTC (7 pm EST) when the tornadic storm was near Bennettsville, SC. The surface based CAPE in Florence at 6 and 7 pm EST was about 3200 j/kg. Thus the combination of shear and CAPE was on the high end of what typically occurs in the Carolinas. Interestingly, surface based CAPE values were higher further east in North Carolina and dewpoint depressions were lower. At 23 and 00 UTC the T and Td were 73F/70F at Florence, SC. This may help explain why the tornadoes in northeast SC and southeast NC were more violent than the ones in western SC.


    00 UTC March 29 (7 pm EST)

The 00 UTC upper air charts featured an exceedingly deep but progressive shortwave trough and associated jet streak over the deep south and southeastern United States. The sounding from Greensboro was unfortunately contaminated by convection. The 00 UTC sounding from Athens, GA (probably launched just after 23 UTC) was taken about 2.5 hours after the storm cluster and associated sub-synoptic low pressure system passed. The 500 mb chart was particularly impressive, showing 104 kt winds at Apalachicola, 102 kts at New Orleans and 102 kts at Athens, and 96 kts at Charleston. The sounding at Waycross, GA was missing at high levels, but 102 kts was reported at 558 mb. The 500 mb winds over the tornadic storm in northern SC were probably about 90 to 100 kts. The 700 mb chart was also impressive. The 700 mb winds were 72 kts at Waycross, 90 kts at Apalachicola, 60 kts at Athens, 71 kts at New Orleans and 54 kts at Charleston. It is difficult to tell how strong the winds were in the vicinity of the primary tornadic storm in northern SC. But given the 64+ mph storm motion, it is likely that 700 mb windspeeds were 60 kts or greater. It is also difficult to tell how strong the 300 mb winds were. But this 300 mb chart indicated windspeeds near or greater than 100 kts. The NARR reanalysis data for 00 UTC March 29 did a poor job at recreating the mid to high level windspeeds across northern SC, underestimating the 700 to 500 mb winds by 20 to 35%. This is probably due to smoothing techniques. The core of the jet was able be to recreated fairly well, but the northern part of the jet core was smoothed far too much. As a result, the 700-500 mb windspeeds in the reanalysis were far too weak to support a storm speed of 64 mph. Hence, I did not include any reanalysis charts.


The 01 UTC surface chart continued to show surface dewpoints from 68 to 70F in the warm sector across the eastern sections of North Carolina and South Carolina. The center of the surface low was located just southeast of Fayetteville. By 02 UTC and 03 UTC, the center of the low was southwest of Greenville, NC and southwest of Edenton, NC respectively. By 03 UTC the sub-synoptic low had begun to pull ahead of the synoptic scale cold front to the northeast.



Georgia Severe Weather (220 pm to 420 pm)

Map of possible Tornado Events in Georgia

After storm initiation in far eastern Alabama at 1:50 EST, the first hints or actual reports of severe weather with the primary convective system to eventually cause devastation across the Carolinas occurred in the western Georgia and in the Atlanta Metropolitan area just before 3 pm EST. A funnel cloud was observed near Douglasville, GA at 2:20 pm and one-inch hail was reported by an Atlanta TV station in Fulton county at 2:52 pm. One-inch hail was also reported in DeKalb county at 2:58 pm. Wind damage was reported in far eastern Dekalb county at Lithonia at 3:13 pm although this time is probably too late by 5 to 15 minutes. The roof of a business was heavily damaged. A car in an adjacent parking lot was heavily damaged when part of the roof from the building fell on it. An apartment building nearby also suffered roof damage. This could have been a weak tornado. The time of this event was probably earlier than reported.

Around 3:15 pm, a tornado touched down about 6 miles west-southwest of Winder and moved east-northeast across Yargo State Park. Hundreds of trees, 30 chicken houses, 1 mobile home, a golf course, and caused minor roof damage to hundreds of buildings. A child in a mobile home suffered minor injuries.

A tornado was sighted north of Statham, GA around 3:30 pm. No damage was reported with this tornado.

Around 3:45 pm, Civil Defense Director David Fitzpatrick reported that a tornado (moving almost due east) touched down on Nowhere Rd near Sanford and caused damage in a 15 mile long strip. He reported that the tornado "left a wide, discernible trail of damaged buildings and trees for 15 miles. 35 homes suffered moderate damage to heavy damage, with windows broken, roofs partially ripped away and carports demolished". Another 50 homes reported light damage. Two mobile homes were destroyed, 6 were blown off their foundations and 35 suffered miscellaneous damage according to Fitzpatrick. Six poultry houses were destroyed and 17 suffered roof damage. 5 barns and utility houses were blown down and 28 others had roof damage. Trees as large as 3 ft in diameter were uprooted and tossed into buildings and across roadways. This event is officially documented as straight line wind damage.

Around 3:57 pm, a probable tornado touched down near Point Peter in Oglethorpe county and moved east-northeast to about 5 miles south of Elberton. A brick building was destroyed in northern Oglethorpe County north of Point Peter. Here is the text of a story by Glenn Weber that appeared in the "Oglethorpe Echo".

Gary Darnell said he praised the Lord he wasn't more seriously injured. The 24 year old man was with several others working in Onnie Willingham's shop on the Dora Bush Hill Rd last Wednesday afternoon when they heard a tornado watch was in effect for their area. Two or three minutes later "it started to hailing and the wind got stronger," Darnell said. "Brick and steel got to flying everywhere." 'The cement block walls of the shop began to topple under the force of the powerful wind and the men inside rushed to escape. "We were trying to leave and the wind just picked us up and blew us into the wall," Darnell recalls. He and Willingham were trapped briefly under tin and other debris from the collapsing building. This damage was officially caused by straight line winds.

Elsewhere in the county, trees were downed and large hail was propelled through windows of homes. Homes and outbuildings were damaged in Beaverdam Estates. In the Sandy Cross area a trailer was damaged and a chicken house was unroofed. In the Glade community, trees were toppled and windows and siding of homes were pelted by hail. As this storm progressed a little further east, a mobile home was overturned on Jones Ferry Rd about 5 miles south-southwest of Elberton in Elbert County. A tornado apparently occurred on Lexington Highway 4 miles south of Elberton. Trees were uprooted and thrown on top of a car and a house at the Marco Goodwin residence and tennis ball sized hail also occurred. This information was gathered from a personal conversation with Marco's wife. She still vividly remembered the storm after 25 years.


South/North Carolina Severe Weather (420 pm to 709 pm)




The severe thunderstorms in Georgia evolved into a short line of severe thunderstorms before entering South Carolina.
Just before the Due West tornado occurred, 10 mobile homes were overturned and golfball sized hail was reported a few miles south of Anderson, SC. Large hail and high winds continued to the east-northeast to just south of Spartanburg. About 4:20 pm, a tornado developed along the line segment south or southeast of Due West, SC. Two other tornadoes developed northeast of this initial tornado affecting Ware Shoals and areas north and west of Laurens. Several people suffered minor injuries. In Abbeville county, 15 families had to be relocated because of damage to their homes. There were 15 badly damaged homes in Abbeville County and 3 in Anderson County. Patricia and Henry Brownlee were thrown from their mobile home and somehow received only minor injuries. The only thing that remained of the mobile home was some of the flooring and wheels. Next door, the two story brick home belonging to James and Brenda Byers took a direct hit and was totally destroyed. The storm hit around 4:20 pm.  The next tornado in this family developed near Ware Shoals. The final tornado with this family apparently developed about 6 miles west of Laurens. 500 acres of timber were downed and 18 mobile homes were destroyed. Forty-three people were injured along this tornado path from west of Laurens to northeast of Laurens.

Around 430 pm, a significant blowdown of trees occurred in southern Abbeville County. The State Forestry Commission declared a forest disaster for Abbeville County.  Part of this blowdown was in the Sumter National Forest. This information is not included in Storm Data.

After causing major damage to timber in Abbeville County, the "first" member of a 337 to 410 mile tornado family apparently touched down about 9 miles west-southwest of Newberry around 5:06 pm. Whether this was actually the first tornado in the family is debatable since the blowdown of timber in Abbeville County, and damage in Oglethorpe and Elbert Counties in Georgia may have been caused by tornadoes from the same tornado family. Due to the uncertainty, I  believe that the tornado family was at least 337 miles long and possibly up to 410 miles long. The official storm data shows the tornado beginning 6 miles west-southwest of Newberry at 5:20 pm. Shortly after touchdown, trees downed and barns destroyed on Richard Neel's property. Then a house was destroyed about 4 miles west-southwest of Newberry. This tornado then moved through the central business district of Newberry. A clock stopped in the public library at 5:15 pm. Downtown Newberry looked like a war zone with $11 million damage with 80 businesses damaged or destroyed. One man died in the wreckage of his automotive shop. Communities further east that were affected by this tornado include Dawkins and Pomaria. This tornado is officially listed as an F2 on the Fujita scale. 38 people were injured. Officially this tornado (23 mile path) ended near the Broad River, with another touching down near New Hope (which is actually just west of the Broad River) and moving 19 miles. The official storm data lumps the two tornadoes together in describing the total damages and lists the total path length of these two tornadoes as 42 miles. There may have been a discontinuity in the tornado path, with 2 tornadoes moving in tandem for a few miles. So in total, there was damage or destruction to 254 houses, 45 trailers, 68 farm  buildings, 86 business buildings and 7 public buildings. Rural losses were $3.2 million.

Fujita Tornado Paths Near Newberry/Winnsboro

The storm data shows the 3rd tornado developing 5 miles west of Winnsboro. This event may or may not have been continuous from east of Newberry through Winnsboro and to Lake Wateree. There also could have been a brief beak near the Monticello Reservoir. But as I said in the introduction, the number of tornadoes is not as important as the strength and path width. One F4 tornado continuously on the ground for 100 miles has much more damage potential than a discontinuous family of 20 tornadoes. Four of the 5 deaths in Fairfield county were in trailers and 1 truck driver was killed on Interstate 77. According to the Highway Patrol, Robert M. Davis age 48 of Delmar, DE was killed  when the tornado knocked his tractor trailer rig off of a bridge on Interstate 77 and smashed it into an embankment. A 1/4 mile wide swath was cut through the forest that motorist could see for years. After passing Interstate 77, forest damage occurred near Dutchman Creek on the west banks of Lake Wateree. On the eastern banks of Lake Wateree near Beaver Creek, a mobile home belonging to Bruce Hinson was destroyed on Beaver Creek according to Bruce Hinson himself. The tornado damaged 39 boats at Bowden's Marina at Beaver Creek. Some homes at Beaver Creek were blown into Lake Wateree. Officially, only downburst damage occurred between the Lake Wateree area and Kershaw. However, if a storm is moving 65 mph, then the damage from a weak tornado would look like straight line wind damage since the north side of the tornado would be very weak.

Extensive damage occurred southeast of Kershaw. The Earl Hunter home was completely destroyed on Highway 341 southeast of Kershaw. Then after passing into Kershaw county, 6 trailers were destroyed. According to the local Lancaster County newspaper, clocks stopped in southern Lancaster County at 6:10 pm. After a brief break, there was a report of a tornado on Highway 151 between Mcbee and Jefferson in the Sandy Run Creek area. Outbuildings were damaged and trees uprooted. Immediately to the east on Highway 145 in the Lake Bee area, an outbuilding was moved, trees uprooted and power lines downed.

While tornadoes were wreaking havoc in South Carolina, another supercell storm that would eventually kill 9 people in northeast North Carolina was developing somewhere northeast of  Laurinburg, NC. This storm produced golfball sized hail in Hope Mills around 6:20 pm and baseball sized hail in northern Cumberland County around 7 pm.
In fact, the most impressive hailstorms in many years went virtually ignored in the local newspapers.

After a possible brief break, a strong tornado hit the Cash-Montrose, SC area around 6:45 pm.The radar in Wilmington, NC showed this storm nicely at 6:47 pm. This tornado apparently continued east and devastated the northern suburbs of Bennettsville. Mr. Kimrey, a resident of Cash, saw a classic funnel west of Highway 52 which was large at the top and small at the bottom. He saw lots of debris being picked  up including trees. He also watched his parents house disintegrate in Cash. In the Cash area, 4 homes and 2 businesses were destroyed. In and near the town of Cash, 36 farm buildings were damaged or destroyed and millions of dollars in damage was done to local forests. There are very few structures in between Cash and Bennettsville so very little damage was reported just before the tornado hit the northern extremity of Bennettsville.
The Bennettsville tornado may or may not have been continuous with the Cash tornado. This map shows the approximate damage path in north Bennettsville. I was able to do this using the details of damage from the "Marlboro Herald Advocate", and  by calling a few people along the periphery of the tornado.

Only minor damage was reported at the Marlboro Jetport. I am still investigating the area between the Pee Dee River and Highway 9. Trees were downed all along Davids Pond Rd as far west as Brown Rd. A few large trees were downed on Davids Pond Rd at the John Rogers residence. Trees were also downed near the Richard McClendon residence on Davids Pond Rd. One large house was demolished on the western outskirts of Bennettsville. In the same area (maybe the same farm), the Kennedy Turkey Farm was devastated and Mr. Kennedy was put out of business. According to the Mrs. Townsend who resides at 722 Craig Circle, houses were damaged or destroyed on Craig Circle which is located just west of the Highway 9 bypass.  The northern extent of the damage in northwest Bennettsville occurred at the Dupre and David residences. Two barns were destroyed at the Alexander Dupre residence and mature pecan trees were toppled. Very large oak trees fell on the David house about 200 yds west of the intersection of Beauty Spot Rd and Highway 38. The southeastern extent of the significant tornado damage in Bennettsville was along E. Pinewood St where roofs were damaged or blown off and many trees were downed according to Mrs. Freeman who lived on E. Pinewood St. Many trees were downed at the Jerry Robinson residence and roof damage occurred along his road. A few huge trees fell onto houses near the intersection of Winston Ave and Thomas St along the southern extremity of the tornado path.

A clock in Food Lion in Bennettsville stopped at 7:02 pm. The radar image from Wilmington at 702 pm shows this storm as well as the two other supercell storms. The Northwood Shopping center was severely damaged. The official storm data shows the tornado developing 4 miles west-northwest of Bennettsville at 7:10 pm, then striking Bennettsville a few minutes later. The Bennettsville tornado turned more to the northeast after passing town and apparently evolved into a large multi-vortex tornado based on scattered but violent tornado damage. In fact, all 7 fatalities with the Bennettsville tornado occurred after the tornado passed Bennettsville near the communities of Fletcher and Lester. The deaths in Lester were near the center of the small village. The deaths in Fletcher were mainly on just north of Academy Rd on Hubbard Farm Rd, King Rd and adjacent roads. A woman and child were thrown into a field. This tornado continued into southern Scotland County, NC and did extensive damage to the Leisure Living Trailer Park southwest of Laurinburg. This tornado lifted before striking Laurinburg. 

Fujita Tornado Paths Near Bennettsville

According to James Jacobs who lives on Johnakin Rd, the southern extent of the damage was along Johnakin Rd where several houses were about 80% damaged and rendered unlivable. Areas particularly hard hit include the northern parts of Jefferson and Crestview Streets as well as Oakwood St, Joyce Dr, Northwood Dr and Hillcrest Dr. The "Punchbowl" area including Springdale Dr and Forest Dr was also heavily damaged.

The damage northeast of Bennettsville was more broad and scattered in nature due to the multi-vortex nature of the tornado. The Lester area was hard hit with 4 fatalities. Trees were down along Burnt Factory Rd and near Burnt Factory Pond. The Edna Jacobs house was destroyed on Devine Dr. A trailer park was destroyed near the center of Lester. However the area just south of Lester including Marvin Quick Rd was not hit hard at all. Further northeast, the small Fletcher community was hit very hard. Several houses were destroyed and 3 people were killed. The hardest hit areas in Fletcher were Adamsville Crossroads, Academy Rd, King Rd,  Hubbard Farm Rd and Piney Grove Church Rd.

Damage continued into North Carolina to Tom Gibson Rd and Leisure Rd. The Leisure Living Trailer Court was hit with numerous injuries reported.  Chad Donaldson helped me pinpoint the location of the Trailer Court. A mobile home was littered in pieces down the middle of Bostic Home Rd (1104). Another mobile home was located beside the road, "turned virtually inside out". A third mobile home was rolled off its foundation and lay crushed in a yard. The Cedar Circle Trailer Court was hit with numerous injuries reported.  Chad Donaldson helped me pinpoint the location of this Trailer Court. Severe tornado damage occurred at the Frank Thompson residence according to Rita Mitchell. This residence is just southeast of Masons Crossroads on Tom Gibson Rd. This tornado lifted before reaching Laurinburg.

As the Bennettsville was occurring, another tornado was developing just east of Bennettsville. This tornado hit the small community of Tatum around  in Marlboro County, SC around 7:01 pm. A large grove of trees was devastated on the Bedenbaugh Farm about 1 mile west of Tatum (north of the railroad tracks). Buildings were also damaged or destroyed on the Bedenbaugh Farm about 1.5 miles north of Tatum. For example, a Commissary built in 1847 was destroyed. Several buildings were destroyed in Tatum. Two deaths occurred in downtown McColl around 7:07 pm. The official storm data shows this tornado starting at 7:25 pm instead of  7:01 pm. Joyce Shelly's father was killed in McColl. These 2 multi-vortex tornadoes formed a 4 mile wide damage path as measured from northwest to southeast from Burnt Factory Pond in Lester to the southern edge of Tatum.  The Stanton's pecan orchard was devastated between Tatum and McColl on Briar Patch Rd.

The number of destroyed houses and mobile homes was detailed in the "Marlboro Herald Advocate." The number of single family homes destroyed in McColl, Bennettsville, Tatum, Lester and rural areas of Fletcher and McColl were 53, 40, 3, 7, and 11 respectively. The number of houses and mobile  homes damaged or destroyed in Bennettsville and McColl were 411 and 226 respectively. Lester had the largest number of mobile homes destroyed at 16. Most of these were in a trailer park.


 

North Carolina Severe Weather (709 pm to 1030 pm)
 
Starting from where we left off in South Carolina, the tornado that developed east of Bennettsville, SC around 7:01 pm was continuous for 45 miles and ended around 7:43 pm northeast of Roslin, NC. This tornado may have initially developed in the eastern part of Bennettsville. Trees were downed at 800 East Main St and on Moore Rd in east Bennettsville. There were very few homes between Bennettsville and Tatum in 1984. So it is possible that some damage occurred with this tornado as early as 659 pm. The Scotch Meadows Country Club along the NC/SC border (in North Carolina) was heavily damaged. The small communities of Hasty and Johns were heavily damaged. This radar image was taken at 7:12 pm when the tornado was impacting Johns, NC in Scotland County. One man was killed in a truck in Johns. The towns of Maxton was hit hard around 7:18 pm. A clock stopped in Red Springs at 7:28 pm were hard hit. Every building in Red Springs had at least F1 damage. A 3 year old child was found dead in a demolished house. According to the Fayetteville Observer,

"Disaster struck the small Robeson County town of Red Springs at about 730 pm Wednesday night, when a tornado ripped through town, tearing roofs off churches, motels, homes and trailers, and leaving as many as 3 people dead, including a 3-year old child who died when a building was demolished."

"The storm tore up entire sections of downtown."  "No buildings, no nothing."

"In Red Springs, a small brown clock on the back wall of the Western Auto on East 4th Avenue in downtown Red Springs somehow survived the wholesale destruction and remained hanging on a single nail. The time showed 7:28 pm."

Around 7:40 pm, a trailer court was hit and caused 3 injuries 2 miles east of Parkton at the intersection of highways 301 and 71. A car parked at the intersection of Highways 71 and 301 was destroyed but the occupants survived. Thereafter, a 2,  2-story barns were destroyed on E. Green Rd (east of I-95). Two mobile homes were destroyed on Roslin Farm Rd at the Walter Canady residence about 742 pm. A rental trailer was damaged at the John McMillan residence and the porch on the house was torn off. This tornado ended about 4 miles south of the Fayetteville Regional Airport.

Around 7:40 pm, when the McColl-Maxton-Red Springs tornado was about 4 miles from its endpoint,  the next tornado developed near the small community of Tobermory, NC. These two tornadoes moved in tandem (parallel to each other about 8 miles apart) for a few miles. Damage at the beginning of the path was fairly light. Trees were snapped off and a barn was partially destroyed on the Lloyd Willis property at the intersection of Minors Creek Rd and Pages Lake Rd or about 1 mile northeast of Tobermory. This is in extreme northwest Bladen County. This information was gleaned during a phone conversation with Lloyd Willis. Across the Neuse River near Elease along the Bladen-Cumberland county line, a brick house on Tabor Church Rd was damaged and make unlivable according to Mr. Ross and Lester Wallace (per phone conversations) who live in the area. According to Jeffrey Bryan (resident of White Oak, NC), the tornado path was 1 mile wide along Tabor Church Rd.  This official storm data does not start this tornado until 7:45 pm about 5 miles northeast of Tobermory. This tornado became violent around 750 pm just after passing into Cumberland county. Luckily this violent tornado moved over sparsely settled areas through 8 pm. I could not find a significant break in the tornado path through and beyond the Greenville, NC area. There may have been a very brief break (more like a slight shift than a break) For all practical purposes this tornado was continuous from 7:40 pm to about 9:27 pm. Kenneth McNair's new, 2200 sq ft brick home was almost leveled at 8192 Cedar Creek Rd. He and his wife had just moved into the house around Christmas 1983. On the morning of the 29th, they sat on their front porch, all that remained of their home. McNair said that he returned home around 7:45 pm as he approached his community he knew something was wrong. According to McNair, "I could tell something was wrong when all the trees were broken off down the road". Harvey Robinson who also lived south of the intersection of Johnson Rd and Cedar Creek Rd (Highway 53) was found in the woods by Elbert Robinson and died. The grandmother was thrown into a field and lived. David and Vicky Robinson used their bodies to cover their young girl when they heard roar of the oncoming tornado.
According to the Fayetteville Observer,

"Huddled in a ball in the living room of their mobile home when the tornado hit their Route 5 residence Wednesday, the parents were thrown clear of their trailer and the home was destroyed. A rescue squad came by and picked the couple up and transported them to the Elizabethtown medical facility. Shortly thereafter, the Robinson girl, Talisha, was found by another rescue volunteer near the trailer. The young child had suffered only a few bruises and multiple cuts."

"Damage to the area was overwhelming. Acres and acres of trees were shredded and snapped off while rain showers continued to fall on the area earlier this morning. Utility poles were broken and utility lines and wires were lying across roads. Sheet metal and housing was wrapped around many of the trees left standing. "

The Carolina Trailways Coach that left Fayetteville at 7:30 pm en route to Wilmington was on a collision course with a large tornado 14 miles down the road. Around 7:50  pm the coach apparently encountered the tornado on Cedar Creek Rd. A 3/4 ton pickup truck was tossed over the bus into a nearby field. The bus was spun around 180 degrees but was not lifted or toppled.  Linwood Porter decided to turn the bus around and proceed to Wilmington but fallen trees in the road stopped him. He realized that nearby homes had been destroyed. According to Porter, "people were still lying in the road afraid to get up. "There were 15 to 20 homes destroyed." Porter gathered those with lesser injuries into the bus in the pouring rain. He did not move the injured people. The bus served for 3 hours as a makeshift hospital and emergency shelter for about 20 area residents. According to Linwood, a lot of the people were naked after being sucked out of their homes. Two of the residents were killed. Help finally arrived about 90 minutes later. Cumberland County rescue squads were busy elsewhere in the county, so 4 squads from Bladen county responded. Ambulances had to maneuver through downed power lines and debris.
The tornado also crossed Turnbull Rd but this road was uninhabited in 1984. According to Jeffrey Bryan, the tornado path was 1 mile wide across Cedar Creek Rd. After crossing highway 53 from 1 to 2 miles north of the Bladen County line, the tornado crossed Turnbull Rd which was uninhabited and then devastated many homes from Troy Fisher Rd to Gip Rd to Ruth Vinson Rd. The tornado cut about a 3/4 mile swath across Troy Fisher Rd.  A large home was destroyed with only 1 wall standing at the Fisher residence. Trees were denuded, debarked and sandblasted. The flat side of a dime was embedded into a tree and had to be removed with a knife. A trailer was destroyed about 1/4 mile further west. All this occurred about 1/8 to 1/2 mile west of the intersection of Troy Fisher Rd. and Gip Rd. Immediately northeast, the Lillian Hair residence was destroyed along Gip Rd. A car was wrapped around a tree in this same area along Gip Rd about 1/2 mile north of intersection with Troy Fisher Rd. The tornado moved over uninhabited areas for 3 miles and then caused destruction along Highway 210 and Ruth Vinson Rd. Mary Hutchins was left homeless after her brick home was flattened. Ruth Vinson was killed near 9855 Ruth Vinson Rd in Cumberland County near the Sampson County line. According to Jeffrey Bryan, the tornado damage path was 1.3 miles wide in this area.

According to "Jeffrey Bryan", a resident of White Oak in Bladen county, "March 28, 1984 was the most significant weather day of my life. Although I did not experience any of the tornadoes directly, I was near the devastation that took place along the Bladen/Cumberland line. I will never forget the 80 degree afternoon that was followed by an unusual display of lightning between 7:30-9:00 pm in my general area. After receiving word of a tornado in the Cedar Creek and Beaver Dam communities that evening, my family and I proceeded to the area above White Oak. We were met by the rescue personnel while en route to the stricken area, only to be cut off by a road block. So we returned the following afternoon...the destruction was almost complete. Houses were swept from their foundations, automobiles were blown great distances and crushed, and a huge forest was now flattened. I personally know some of the victims of the Carolinas outbreak, even some who lost family members that night. There were 22 tornadoes that swept a 307 mile path across the two states that day."

Jeffrey Bryan actually went on a tornado damage tour and provided the following details of the destruction and bodily harm that was inflicted by the tornado across Bladen and Cumberland counties. A double wide trailer along Tabor Church Rd belonging to Phillip Dockery was swept more than a mile into a flattened forest. Phillip suffered severe injuries. Phillip's wife Ann was blown into a canal and suffered a broken leg and hip. Their son George suffered head injuries and was in a coma for 8 days. His sister Ruth Ann was in a coma for 4 days. A dump truck in their yard was destroyed. The paint was sandblasted from Ann's car.   Harvey G. Robinson, a steel worker in Fayetteville, was found lying in a field with a broken back and a piece of wood impaled through his buttocks and thigh. He died at the Bladen County hopsital that night. His wife, Henrietta, was blown into the woods, suffering a broken neck and broken legs. Her 7 year old daughter, also blown into the woods, had a broken leg, broken arm and part of an ear missing.  Her young brother, Eric, was found across Highway 53 in a tree. He suffered massive head injuries and was left a paraplegic with permanent cognitive disability. A little further to the east-northeast along Ruth Vinson Rd.,  Betty Vinson's home was comletely blown away and she was thrown into a field and killed. Betty (age 69) worked on the lunchroom staff at two different schools and was retired. Betty was a long-time member of the Evergreen Baptist Church on Highway 210. One of Betty's cancelled checks was found 18 miles away near Kitty Fork. The house belonging to Betty's son and daughter and law (Willie and Sadie) was heavily damaged and they lost almost everything they owned. Their daughter, Faye Fisher, had her trailer home blown away.  A car on Fisher Rd was blown 3/4 mile and was wrapped around a utility pole. A single wide mobile home was taken from its chassis along Cedar Creek Rd and carried for more than 4 miles, landing in a field along Polly Island Rd.


By 8 pm the 2nd supercell storm that developed northeast of Laurinburg around 6 pm and which produced golfball to baseball sized hail from 6:20 to 7:30 pm was becoming tornadic in Nash County NC near Rocky Mount. Both of these supercells can be seen on this radar image. The southern tornadic supercell storm was just west of Roseboro, NC.

Some damage occurred in the Raleigh area around 8 pm. The newspaper downplayed the Wake county damage since it was nothing compared to the devastation in other areas. An old house was torn down at South Saunders and Maywood Avenue. Debris from this house and adjacent streets were blocked by debris for 2 hours according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

The northern storm produced a brief tornado in the southwest section of Rocky Mount (called "West Mount") around 815 pm. Four well -constructed homes and two mobile homes were destroyed and 30 other homes were damaged. The heaviest damage occurred along Brittany Rd where the Alvin Layton home was heavily damaged.

About the same time a tornado was developing near Rocky Mount from the northern storm, the Cumberland County tornado was entering Sampson County about 4 miles west of Roseboro. According to the Fayetteville Observer,

"A twister touched down about a mile west of Roseboro like a demented lumberjack, snapping hundreds of trees 8 or 10 ft off the ground  and leaving dozens more leaning."

 The Boren Brick Company was destroyed on Highway 24 west of Roseboro and Hilda Ray was injured in a mobile home just south of Highway 24. Several homes were damaged or destroyed from the Boren Brick Company to the southern parts of Salemburg. The Hulen and Raymond Smith houses were hit along Dunn Rd southwest of Salemburg. A turkey farm was destroyed just northeast of the Hulen residence. The Hugh Jones family home was destroyed on Laurel Lake Rd. Ed Strickland was killed in the same area. Mrs. Hulen worked on the Rescue Squad during the tornado. According to the Sampson Independent:

"While in Lakewood Plaza that night, Hulen said she saw the stoplight at N.C. 24 and N.C. 242 begin to teeter sideways from the heavy winds, almost as if it would blow completely off. Rain was coming down, but people inside the restaurant didn’t think much of it. “We just thought it was a bad storm,” she said. “All of a sudden the power went out and it just got real dark and still, and the pagers started going.”  She hurried to her car after the first call came in and she remembered the blanket of black that engulfed the town.  “It was so dark I couldn’t find the rescue building,” she said. When she finally did made her way there, Hulen responded along with others to a call of damage at a trailer in the Pleasant Union Church area. There, they would see the first of signs of something more than a routine storm. A brick house had been twisted off its foundation. The trailer of another man had also been destroyed. Call after call came in from people needing assistance. “We had the ambulance full of people by the time we got through,” Hulen said. “I still had not thought ‘tornado,’ I guess it was because we were just so busy or just not used to having something like that.” One injured woman Hulen encountered saw her home sustain heavy damage. She told Hulen her son was at school practicing for a play the seniors were having. He was not going to have anywhere to go, she said. Hulen quickly offered her home as refuge for the woman’s son. “I said ‘that’s OK, I’ll take him to my house, I’ll take care of him for you tonight,” she recalled. “Not knowing I didn’t have a house anymore.” After the full ambulance was emptied, Hulen returned to the rescue building just in time to receive word that a call had come in of heavy damage to Raymond Smith’s house on 1002 (now Dunn Road), the same road where Hulen lived. She knew her youngest son Todd was at her home and her mother was inside her trailer with Hulen’s young nephew, Michael. The trailer was located just behind Hulen’s home, on the same property. When she heard that Smith’s trailer was affected, she started thinking the worst for her own home, knowing it was likely gone too. The rescue squad responded to 1002 and Hulen eventually was able to track down Todd. She asked where his grandmother and cousin were.  “He said ‘I don’t know where they’re at,” recalled Hulen. “He said ‘I can’t find them and I can’t find the trailer.’ And I went to pieces.” Hulen began to search for her mother. The chassis to the trailer was there, but the trailer itself was gone. Hulen’s mother, Clara Barnes, and her nephew, Michael Wingate, would be found on top of the house, with Barnes’ grandson firmly in the arms of his loving grandmother. “She was holding Michael and the mattress was on top of them,” said Hulen, who pauses for a moment and dabs her eyes with a tissue. “I think about it, and I think about it this time of year because my mother loved this time of the year so much.” After passing through the southern and eastern extremity of  Salemburg, the tornado moved over sparsely populated areas for a couple of miles, a house was heavily damaged on "The Avenue" according to Janet Spell in a personal conversation. Next, trees were uprooted on McGee Church Rd according to James Butler.

After passing Salemburg, the tornado moved over mainly open county before hitting Kitty Fork. Trees were downed along Strickland Cabin Rd, The Ave and 5-Cabin Rd. This information was gathered in a phone conversation with Jennifer Fann, a local resident on Crumpler Mill Rd. The tornado passed south and east of her residence with minimal damage. The Howell Ellis house was destroyed about 1/4 mile from the intersection of High House Rd and Belvoir Rd or about a mile southwest of Kitty Fork. According to 
Chris Berendt of the Sampson Independent:

 "The power went out at Gracie and Howell Ellis’ home on Belvoir School Road at 8:20 p.m. and, when it did, the men went to check on the hog houses. While they were gone, the Ellis home was torn apart. Gracie Ellis said she felt a piercing headache due to the oncoming storm and opened the back door to get some fresh air. That’s when she heard a loud “crash” and raced to the bathroom along with her daughter, daughter-in-law and 13-month-old grandson. They huddled together inside the bathtub as the tornado whipped around outside. Ellis said they were only in the tub for “45 seconds to a minute” — but that was long enough. When they emerged from the bathroom to survey the damage, they saw that the attic had been ripped off the house, all the windows were blown out and the siding from the home and shingles off the roof had flown into nearby vehicles. One vehicle had a tree on it, another had a tree in it. Ellis’ son-in-law’s truck had been picked up and thrown into the middle of a field, its horn left blaring from the impact. A 105-year-old oak tree nearby had been snapped like a toothpick, she said. “It was just there and gone,” she said. “It seemed like forever. It was just bad. We thought our husbands were probably dead.” They came from the hog houses, unharmed. However, the tornado had leveled a total of 21 outbuildings on the property. “There was nothing left,” Howell Ellis recalled. “It’s unbelievable the destruction it can do in a matter of seconds.” “We just thought it was going to be a bad thunderstorm,” his wife attests, “but it wasn’t like that at all. We talked and we cried and we tried to figure out what we were going to do. And we did, and we worked it out and we were good.” Despite having lost 30 years of keepsakes that had been accumulated in the attic, Gracie Ellis reminded her children that material possessions can be replaced, but a life cannot. “I told my children to forget about material things,” said Ellis. “You can replace possessions, but if you lose an arm or a leg or a life, you can’t get that back.” She didn’t hold out much hope for recovering any of her own possessions contained within the attic she had lost, but surprisingly did get two interesting pieces of mail not long after. Two canceled personal checks from a box in her attic had been found — one 100 miles away. Both were unscathed, not so much as a rip here or a crease there."

Fujita Tornado Paths Near LaGrange/Ayden

In a phone conversation, Janet Spell, who lives southwest of Kitty Fork gave me quite a bit of detailed information about the tornadoes within a few miles of Kitty Fork. Several houses were damaged or destroyed in Kitty Fork along highway 421. This damage occurred around 8:13 pm. A house was heavily damaged on "The Ave" before the tornado reached Kitty Fork.
Trees were downed on McGee Church Rd. A house was destroyed about 1.5 miles east of Kitty Fork on Basstown Rd about 1/2 mile south of Grady Rd. Also, according to Spell, houses were destroyed along Grady Rd and 3 people were killed in a house at the end of paved road 1830. Those people were Ronnie Garner, his wife and 2 year old grandson. The grandson was found in a tree. According to Jeffrey Bryan, 4 members of the Garner family were killed by the tornado. Billy and Stella's daughter Katrina was the only survivor of the 5-member family. This is west of the PlainView Penecostal Free Will Baptist Church. The Charles Jernigan and Jay King houses were also destroyed. Also according to Spell, several houses were destroyed immediately north of the intersection of  Hargrove Rd and 701. Three people were killed including Reverend Leo Barefoot. At one store along Highway 701 there was nothing left but the concrete slab.  A 2X4 was propelled through a hog in this vicinity. 

In a phone conversation, William Shipp told me that one house was completely destroyed along Shipp Rd and several others were heavily damaged. The tornado then hit along McCullen Rd. between Bernice Rd and Keener Rd and destroyed several  houses. This was either one large tornado, or a large multi-vortex tornado. The tornado moved over sparsely populated areas again. Next, the small community of Poplar Grove was devastated. Another swath of tornado damage occurred on E Darden Rd further north. Locals say these were 2 independent tornadoes. Russell Palmer's 1-story frame house was completely demolished by a tornado around 8:20 pm. According to Mr. Cannady, this house, along with the Miller and Brit houses  mentioned below, were near the intersection of Highway 403 and road 1725. 

"Nita Miller was not at home when her 1-story frame home was leveled. But the elderly Sampson county woman, who was visiting her sister several hundred yards away was not spared. She was killed when the tornado hit her sister's home. Ms. Miller was thrown about 100 yards out of the home and was found in the wreckage of another house owned by Russell Palmer. The Brit home where Ms. Miller was thrown was heavily damaged but not leveled. Many outbuildings were destroyed and some heavily damaged on the Bryson farm. One house was destroyed. This information was obtained from Jean Bryson. Many outbuildings were destroyed and some heavily damaged on the Bryson farm. One house was destroyed. This information was obtained from Jean Bryson. Part of a metal sign from the Bryson farm was found 25 miles to the east-northeast in Seven Springs according to Wilson Spencer. Along Spencer road to the east-northeast of NN Ellis Rd,  a house and outbuildings were destroyed. The habitants were thrown from the house and lived. The house was completely swept away. This information was from Wilson Spencer.The Clifford Avant home was destroyed on Burch Rd in northeast Sampson County. Governor Jim Hunt visited this area that was devastated by the tornado. Immediately to the south,  the main section of the Poplar Grove Missionary Baptist Church was destroyed. Further northeast on Calvin Hobbs Rd near the Sampson-Duplin county line, Mr. Clarence Hobbs was killed in a destroyed house. Two houses and 2 trailers were destroyed on Calvin Hobbs Rd.
This information was gathered from the nephew of Clarence Hobbs. 

The tornado moved into far northwest Duplin County around 8:28 pm and exited Duplin County (entered Wayne county) around 832 pm. However this four minutes proved devastating for the southern extremity of Mount Olive. The small town of Calypso was very lucky to be spared the brunt of this violent tornado.  One house was unroofed on Hampton Hobbs Rd as the tornado first crossed into Duplin county.  This information was also gathered from the nephew of Clarence Hobbs. Mikayla Whaley who lives 1 mile north of Mount Olive NC posted this online blog:

"I recall I worked that afternoon and it had reached about 81 degrees. That evening I traveled to Goldsboro to put a deposit on a dog. Before returning home I drove to center street Mount olive, just 10 minutes before the tornado struck. I returned home and less than 5 minutes the power went out. There were strong winds, and I may have heard the tornado just a few miles away. It was dark, so there was nothing to see from my home at the time. The next morning the temp had dropped to 47 degrees and it was raining. I went out the following day with 35mm camera and took many pictures of the damage. Esp. high damage occurred on the Duplin/Wayne county line on Highway 117. Homes were destroyed, cars and trailers overturned and even tin roofing was wrapped around the remaining trunks of pine trees."

 The Pine Forest subdivision of Mount Olive was severely damaged by the tornado where 27 of the 28 existing homes were destroyed. Heavy damage also occurred on the eastern extremity of Mount Olive but it appears that the tornado was not as violent in this area. The tornado hit eastern Mount Olive in Wayne county around 8:33 pm. 

Tornado damage occurred past Mount Olive to Indian Springs. The tornado was probably smaller at this point and not as devastating. A large factory was heavily damaged east of Mount Olive. North of Highway 55 about 3 miles east of Mount Olive a house was completely destroyed with the occupants thrown some distance but not killed. About 5 miles east-northeast of Mount Olive (near the intersection of Emmaus Church Rd and Joe Whitted Rd), a double-wide and a single-wide trailer were destroyed. One house was unroofed and huge trees were uprooted. One 6 ft diameter pecan tree was downed. In the adjacent woods, a 1" by 5" sheeting board from a house sliced all the way through a pine tree. This information was from Mr. Holmes. Near Indian Springs a house was destroyed on Sand Pit Rd and the Indian Springs Methodist Church was heavily damaged on Park Rd (Indian Springs Rd).


After traveling over sparely settled areas, a strong tornado touched down about 4 to 5 miles west-southwest of La Grange near the middle Wayne-Lenoir County border. A swath was cut through the forest between Piney Grove Rd and Garris Chapel Rd. Two homes were destroyed on Garris Chapel Rd with nothing left but the foundations. Some information was gathered from James Smith (former emergency manager for La Grange) and Roger Dail (Emergency Manager for La Grange). The houses were apparently occupied by James Sutton and Leroy Sutton. According to James Sutton, "Everything on the farm was blown away."  According to former emergency manager, a family of 6 sought refuge in a car. The car was lifted and landed in the top of a large Oak tree. A woman in the car was injured critically and died later. According to Helen Edmundson, vocational counselor with Goldsboro High, the tornado destroyed 2 mobile homes, farm equipment, outbuildings and damaged houses in the Garris Chapel Church area. Mobile home residents were "thrown clear" and the mobile home broke up in trees after being hurled 150 yds. Two cars were crushed. This occurred in the "Southern Mobile Village". One of the women died. John Gibson, a native of eastern Wayne county, posted a blog on this event online:

"I was just 4 years old, but the sounds that night, and the scenes of the next day will never leave my mind. My Aunt Bee owned a rest home near the middle Wayne/Lenoir county line. My grandmother thought it would be a good idea to go there when she heard the weather radio sound off. It was dark outside, but the lightning was so intense that it lit the sky as if the sun was shining on the clearest day. Strikes were so numerous that the thunder seemed to roar forever. You could hear things hitting the walls of the home, trees snapping all around, sounding like fresh crisp carrots. I was so scared. At daybreak we ventured out to see the damage. Homes that were just yards away, destroyed, nothing left. Imagine this, about 40 yards off the left side of the road is an empty space where a 2story house once stood hours before, and 20 yards off the right side of the road is half of the garage that was once part of that beautiful home, and theres a 10-speed bicycle in there still on its kickstand. WOW!!"

Once again, the tornado weakened upon reaching a sizable population center. But weak F1/F2 tornado damage continued from the western part of  La Grange to North Lenoir High School and beyond. A tornado hit on Caswell St and on Fire Tower Rd. The Mary Cunningham house was hit on Caswell St. The Centurion Apartments in La Grange was unroofed at the intersection of Fire Tower Rd and  Caswell St.  Houses or buildings were damaged on Fire Tower Rd and Aldridge Store Rd. Structures were also damaged on Bonnie Walters Rd. Homes were partially destroyed on Ben Dail Rd. A house was damaged on Colie Rd according to Clemintine Crawford. Information from Cliff Cashwell  revealed that the Anna Colie house was partially destroyed by the tornado and had to be rebuilt. The North Lenoir High School and an adjacent house were unroofed.

Severe tornado damage started near the Lenoir-Greene county line. Many houses were destroyed along  Grays Mill Rd from Highway 258 to Highway 58. Several deaths occurred in this area. The Greene county sheriff reported that 25 homes were leveled and 75 to 100 homes were damaged in the 12 mile stretch across southern Greene county. After the tornado, residents along Grays Mill Rd wanted the road to be renamed "Tornado Road". A house was unroofed and barns were destroyed just southwest of  Hookerton. A tractor slid 15 ft. This damage occurred at the Bowen residence. Heavy tornado damage also occurred near Scuffleton but I was unable to get detailed information on this. According to the Kinston Daily Free Press, "The community of Scuffleton in Greene County was almost obliterated by the winds and was one of the hardesty hit in the tornado's path". There was no corroborating evidence.

Meanwhile the storm further northeast that produced a damaging tornado in Rocky Mount was about to produce another tornado a few miles west southwest of Lewiston, NC about 8:50 pm. After touching down, this tornado produced nearly continuous damage (as seen from a helicopter by emergency manager Charles Jones) for 80 to 90 miles into the Virginia Beach area. Nine people were killed by this tornado. After touching down, this tornado moved east-northeast across the northern extremity of Lewiston. Six people were killed near the intersection of Moore Rd and Highway 11. The tornado moved along Connaritsa Rd for several miles in open country. A house was heavily damaged on Early Station Rd southwest of Ahoskie. Extensive damage was done to a trailer park immediately southeast of where Highway 13/42 meets Arrow Rd. Trailers were flattened. The tornado continued through the Bethlehem area and did extensive damage to trees in open country. There was a blowdown of trees in the Bear Swamp area.  In fact, the blowdown was so severe that the pileup of trees interfered with the local water flow. This tornado moved over open country past the Chowan River.

The first house encountered after passing the Chowan River was an old plantation house dating back to 1800. This historical structure was completely destroyed and many trees in the vicinity were downed. According to an article by Brenda Brown in the Gates County Index:

"One of North Carolina's historical landmarks was destroyed by the tornado which hit Gates County March 28. The Roberts-Carter house, located 4 miles southwest of Gatesville was owned by Mrs. Horace Carter and her daughters, who were making plans to begin restoration of the elaborate Greek Revival house, recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places."

Detailed information was gathered from the Gates County Index and Vicky Holloway (daughter of former Gates County Emergency Manager). Several homes were destroyed near the intersection of Highway 37 and Perkins Rd. Extensive damage also occurred north of 37 on Zion Rd. The Durwood Evans home on N.C. 37 in the Zion Community suffered heavy but reparable damage. The Evan's adjacent, former home was completely demolished. The one-story clapboard home inhabited by Joseph Riddick (age 83) and his son James Matthew Riddick (age 55) was demolished and the two were killed. This house was burned after it was destroyed and only a smoldering pile of rubble was left. Across the road from the Riddick home, Mr. and Mrs. Emmett Rountree in the Zion Community survived as their solid brick home was demolished except for the bedroom where the two were sleeping.  The house formerly occupied by Mrs. Lloyd White was blown off its foundation into the woods. At Sidney Spivey's house, a large tree rested on the roof of his extensively damaged house, and 3 vehicles were crushed by falling trees. The Henry Weaver house still stood even though all the outbuildings and two boats in the yard all blew away. The boats couldn't be found. Further west on N.C. 37, the Porter house was unroofed and at least 3 trailers were demolished. The Phillip Hofler house was unroofed. Damage was also heavy in the Water Swamp area as mobile homes were destroyed. Timber was mowed down in the Water Swamp area through Sugar Run Rd and on into the Dismal Swamp. The tornado continued into Pasquotank county and left a trail of downed trees in the Dismal Swamp. In rural Sunbury at the residence of J.S. Hill, every Cedar Tree was downed. On N.C. 32, the top of Fred Spivey's house was blown off. Somewhere in the Gatesville-Sunbury area, the William Harrell, occupied by Mrs. Harrell and two children was turned upside down, dumping the occupants in the yard. The trailer was then demolished and scattered for 700 yds. The trailer of Thomas and Laura Wiggins was found 100 yds away in the woods with only the chassis remaining. Parts of the trailer were scattered for 300-400 yds. Luvenia Outland's white wood frame home was completely destroyed after it was picked up and thrown into the woods. Vernon Wilson (who works for Walter Johnson) was living in a small trailer that was picked up and hurled into a field. Neighbors found him stripped of his clothes and walking around naked and dazed. They walked him to U.S. 158 where he was picked up by the Rescue Squad and taken to Albemarle Hospital. Here is a map showing some of the selected damage in the Gatesville-Sunbury area.

Switching gears to the southern storm, a tornado entered Pitt County around 9:08 pm and did considerable damage along the northwest edge of Ayden around 9:13 pm. Heavy tornado damage occurred a few miles south of Greenville on Reedy Branch, Laurie Ellis Rd, Worthington Rd, Tull Rd, Roberson Dr., B. Stokes Rd, Rouse Rd, Portertown Rd and Eastern Pines Rd. East of Greenville the tornado hit the eastern part of the Simpson community. Faye Creegan, a 40 year old school teracher in Greenville, was blown away by the tornado that destroyed her house. Her body was never found. By 9:25 pm the tornado hit the Pactolus area.  Six houses were destroyed on State Road 1550 east of Pactolus. The following blog was posted online by Linda Whitehurst:

"My son and I were on 264 just east of Pactolus on the night of March 28, 1984 at 9:20 pm. We saw the tornadoes cross the highway in the headlights of my car. I had stopped on the highway. With both feet on the brake pedal, the wind was blowing us sideways on the highway. We live on Sheppard Mill Road. The tornadoes that we saw in our headlights blew away my house, my storage barn and all of my dad's tobacco barns and pack house. It was very traumatic. We measure our lives in BT (before the tornado) and AT (after the tornado). We were the first family in Pitt County to get a FEMA trailer because neighbors and church family members came to help with the clean-up. Needless to say, about 3 week ago, we had a terrible wind storm that brought down trees everywhere. My son and his family live next door and they were in their closet and I was in my bathroom in the center of the house. The experience of loosing almost everything makes me a more thankful person for our lives."

In a phone conversation, Linda told me later that the tornado hit her house on Sheppard Mill Rd at 9:25 pm and not 9:20 pm. Minor damage was down northeast of Pactolus. A barn or two was partially destroyed. The tornado may have lifted briefly in northeastern Pitt county. Storm data states that significant damage to large trees along Highway 264 in far western Beaufort County.

More tornado damage occurred in Martin county from Smithwick Rd to Thurman Griffin Rd to Fire Department Rd to Authur Corey Rd to Yarrel Creek Rd. This tornado damage cannot be found in the official storm data. The tornado may have lifted beyond Holly Springs Church Rd. The last damage report in Martin County was a destroyed barn in "Barbertown" off of Manning Rd. This is a few miles south of Jamesville. According to the Williamston Newspaper, tornado damage in the county was $200,000 to $300,000. The hardest hit area was in Griffin Township although most of this area is heavily wooded. According to the paper, the tornado went through a large section of woodland in Griffin's township and could have been much worse. Substantial damage was done to several homes and outbuildings. The following is a newspaper account of the some of the damage:

"Storage buildings at the home of Mrs. Roland Griffin near the Griffin's Township Fire Station in Farm Life were flattened Wednesday night when a tornado struck the area. The area around the home resembled a battlefield with a clear view of the tornado's path seen from the home. Trees, both pines and hardwoods, some as much as 25-30" in diameter, were clipped off and thrown about the area."

According to the paper, "Damage was heavy throughout the Farm Life area from the Griffins Township Fire Station to Screaming Bridge. Trees were blown down onto several area homes. Some fields were littered with splintered pine trees. Several farm buildings were ripped to pieces or removed from their foundations. Near SR 1528, pieces of tin from a roof were wrapped around a large pine tree so tight that is had to be forcibly removed. Roads in the area were littered with debris from trees and several roads were blocked by fallen trees. A piece of pine tree was thrown violently into the ground in the Farm Life area. According to the paper, a large part (upper part) of a Pine tree was thrown violently into the ground so that it penetrated the ground several feet.

A barn was destroyed south of Jamesville by a possible tornado.

According to storm data, heavy timber damage was done south of Plymouth. I have been unable to corroborate this.

Further northeast, a tornado touched down with this same storm over the Albemarle Sound and came onshore southeast of Edenton in Chowan County. A house was damaged and trees were downed on Bowden Lane. In 1984 this area was not populated. The tornado also affected Woodard Rd and Darby Creek Lane. The information about the exact path was provided by emergency manager Belch. A swath of trees were downed and trees fell into the James Spence home.Trees and brush had to be cleared off state route 1340.

This tornado moved northeast and caused extensive damage to houses in Perquimans County. One woman was killed as she walked back into her home to retrieve a flashlight.

Garland Eure's warehouse was extensively damaged about 9 miles southwest of Elizabeth City. Trees were snapped off. A grain bin was blown 1/4 mile. The tornado moved over forested areas just east of  Whitehat Rd and spared several houses.


Forward Motion of Primary Tornadic Storm

The following were clock stoppage times for locations along the path of the primary tornadic storm:

Newberry, SC - Electric clock in the public library on main street stopped at 5:15 pm
Bennettsville, SC - The clock in the Food Lion stopped at 7:02 pm
Red Springs, NC - A clock at Western Auto on East 4th Avenue stopped at 7:28 pm
Hookerton, NC 4.5 miles SW or 7 NNW of Kinston or 6 SSE of Snow Hill - Mrs. Sugg recorded the time of the tornado at 8:58 pm
Pactolus, NC - A clock in the Whitehurst home 0.45  miles north of the intersection of Sheppard Mill Rd and 264 stopped at 9:25 pm

The following are approximate times of the tornado passage from local newspapers

Beaver Creek, SC  SC - 5:59 pm
Poplar Grove, NC - Tornado occurred about 8:22 pm (this could have  been a clock stoppage time)

The following are approximate times of the tornado passage (corroborated by radar)

Mount Olive, NC- 8:33 pm
La Grange, NC - 8:49 pm

The above information is consistent with a fairly steady storm motion of 64 to 65 mph!!

Damage Photos

The late Dr. Theodore Fujita did a damage survey of this tornado event and many pictures were taken. The pictures have no accompanying documentation so the locations are a mystery.

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Damage Video

Here is video of the tornado aftermath at Red Springs, NC.