1984 Carolinas tornado outbreak

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1984 Carolinas tornado outbreak
NC march 28 1984.png
A map of confirmed tornadoes from this outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationMarch 28, 1984
Tornadoes confirmed24
Max rating1F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2~10 hours
Damage+$578 million (non-normalized)
Fatalities57 fatalities, 1249 injuries
Areas affectedGeorgia, The Carolinas
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time 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, North Carolina also occurred at this time. Severe storms began entering Western South Carolina by mid-afternoon as a high risk was issued for Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas, and tornado watches had been issued for most of South Carolina, North Carolina and a portion of Virginia.

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 1 4 7 5 7 0 24
Sources: [https://www.webcitation.org/5a1zWeTTp?url=http://www4.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-win/wwcgi.dll?wwevent~storms%5d
F# Location County Time (EST) Path length Damage
F1 Barrow Barrow 03:25 12 miles (19 km)
Tornado in Barrow County W of Athens injured one person.
F0 Henry Henry 04:30 1-mile (1.6 km)
Very brief touchdown SE of Atlanta.
South Carolina
F1 Due West Abbeville 04:30 3 miles (4.8 km)
Brief touchdown injured 24 people.
F2 N of Laurens

Laurens 04:40 18 miles (29 km)
Tornado destroyed 19 trailers and damaged 13 others. Five community buildings were destroyed, along with 500 acres of timber. 43 people were injured.
F2 Newberry

Newberry 05:20 23 miles (37 km)
1 death – Large F2 tornado moved NE through downtown Newberry, which reportedly resembled a "war zone" after the tornado struck. 80 businesses were damaged or destroyed. A church lost its roof and a wall, and a dance academy building partially collapsed.[1] The path of this storm was 3/4 of a mile in width in places. Caused $11,000,000 in damage and injured 38 people. Fatality occurred when an automotive shop was destroyed.
F3 E of Newberry

Newberry 05:40 19 miles (31 km)
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. This second tornado injured 10 people.
F4 Winnsboro area

Fairfield 06:00 21 miles (34 km) 5 Deaths – 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. A private school was severely damaged, and school buses were seen airborne at that location. A church and several masonry retail buildings collapsed as well. One death in a truck that was blown from the interstate, and the other four occurred in trailers. 40 homes, 24 trailers, and four businesses were damaged or destroyed. Substantial downburst damage linked the paths of this and the subsequent three tornadoes.[1][2]:647–648
F4 SW of Kershaw Kershaw, Lancaster 06:20 4 miles (6.4 km)
Massive timber damage was reported S of Kershaw, and a mobile home park was destroyed. 31 people were injured.
F2 N of McBee Chesterfield 06:40 2 miles (3.2 km)
Tornado touched down in the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, leveling pine forests.
F4 Cash area Chesterfield 06:45 7 miles (11 km)
Four homes and two businesses were destroyed in town. 36 farm buildings were destroyed in and near town, and large swaths of forest were leveled. 24 people were injured.
F4 Bennettsville SC to Laurinburg NC Marlboro SC, Scotland NC 07:10 17 miles (27 km)
7 Deaths – Tornado touched down very near the endpoint of the previous tornado, passing through the north side of Bennettsville before dissipating near Laurinburg. The Northwoods Shopping Center in Bennettsville was destroyed, and an apartment complex was devastated. Tornado killed 3 people in the rural community of Lester, and four others in Fletcher before crossing the state line. As the tornado crossed the NC/SC line, its area of circulation grew to 2 miles (3.2 km) in width. 100 people were injured.
F4 E of Bennettsville SC to Parkton NC Marlboro SC, Scotland NC,

Robeson NC, Cumberland NC

07:20 45 miles (72 km)
4 Deaths – Second F4 tornado touched down near Bennettsville after the first one. 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. East of Bennettsville, the tornado devastated the towns of Tatum and McColl. Tornado crossed the state line and struck the towns of Johns and Maxton before obliterating Red Springs, where damage was extreme. Every undestroyed building in the town of Red Springs received at least F1 damage. The tornado dissipated near Parkton, after injuring 395 people.
F2 W of Loris SC to Tabor City NC Horry SC, Columbus NC 09:35 16 miles (26 km)
Tornado touched down NW of Conway, and was isolated from other tornado families in this outbreak. Two trailers were destroyed in South Carolina, injuring eight people.
North Carolina
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 NE of Tobermory to Clinton Bladen, Cumberland, Sampson 07:45 40 miles (64 km)
12 Deaths – Tornado first struck Beaver Dam, killing two and leveling a large swath of pine forest. The tornado then struck Salemburg, killing one person there before killing two others near Roseboro. Six people were killed in the Clinton area before the tornado dissipated. Three of the deaths were in trailers. Tornado injured 101 people and was nearly a mile wide.
F2 Rocky Mount to West Mount Nash 08:10 2 miles (3.2 km)
F2 damage occurred in West Mount.
F4 NE of Clinton to NE of Mount Olive Sampson, Duplin, Wayne 08:15 21 miles (34 km)
3 Deaths – Tornado produced 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)
Tornado passed along the SE edge of LaGrange, destroying several homes and injuring 81 people.
F4 NE of LaGrange, to E of Greenville Wayne, Lenoir, Greene, Pitt 08:45 46 miles (74 km)
16 Deaths – This tornado was up to 3/4 of a mile in width, and was the deadliest of the outbreak. Caused fatalities and major damage in and around Snow Hill, Winterville, Ayden and Greenville. Greenville was especially hard hit, where the southeastern suburbs and portions of the campus of East Carolina University experienced severe damage. 300 homes were destroyed, mostly in Greenville. 153 people were injured.
F3 W of Lewiston Bertie 08:55 6 miles (9.7 km)
6 Deaths – In the NW corner of Bertie County, the tornado circulation was up to 1/2-mile (3.2 km) wide. Deaths were at a trailer park in the path of the storm, where a family of 5 was killed. Caused $5,000,000 in damage and 19 injuries.
F2 SE of Ahoskie Bertie, Hertford 09:10 5 miles (8.0 km)
Caused F2 damage and 7 injuries near Ahoskie.
F1 E of Cambridge Hertford 09:17 1-mile (1.6 km)
Caused damage near Harrellsville and the Wiccacon River.
F3 near Gatesville Gates 09:37 14 miles (23 km)
2 Deaths – Several houses destroyed along mostly rural path through southern Gates County. 9 houses and 7 trailers were destroyed, and 9 other houses damaged. Wind damage reports continued into rural parts of the city of Chesapeake, Virginia. 10 people were injured
F2 Snug Harbor Chowan, Perquimans 10:15 6 miles (9.7 km)
1 Death – Southeast of Edenton; the last tornado of the outbreak touched down as a waterspout. The tornado began over Albemarle Sound before moving onshore. A tree was blown over, crushing a trailer, resulting in one fatality and an injury. Rated F1 by Grazulis.
Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
North Carolina 42 Bertie 6
Cumberland 2
Gates 2
Greene 7
Perquimans 1
Pitt 9
Robeson 2
Sampson 10
Wayne 3
South Carolina 15 Fairfield 5
Marlboro 9
Newberry 1
Totals 57
All deaths were tornado-related


Ultimately this outbreak was responsible for 57 deaths, 1249 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 was noted by Grazulis and other researchers[2]:648 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 (on an estimated 250+ mile track) a family of 13 large tornadoes, 10 of which produced F3 or F4 damage, which was occasionally connected by swaths of downburst damage. The resulting tornado family, the series of tornadoes in totality is among the longest on record.[3]

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, Baltimore, Greenville, South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, Dover, Delaware, Fayetteville, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, North Carolina, Suffolk, Virginia, Norfolk, Virginia) at the periphery of the outbreak, with wind damage from thunderstorms reported as far north as Delaware.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sparks, Peter R. (1985). Building Damage in South Carolina Caused by the Tornadoes of March 28, 1984. National Academy Press. p. 3. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Grazulis, Thomas P. (1991). Significant Tornadoes 1880–1989. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: Environmental Films.
  3. ^ Maddox, Robert A.; Gilmore, M. S.; Doswell III, C. A.; Johns, R. H.; Crisp, C. A.; W. Burgess, D.; Hart, J. A.; Piltz, S. F. (2013). "Meteorological Analyses of the Tri-State Tornado Event of March 1925". E-Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology. 8 (1).


  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (2001). The Tornado. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 203.
  • Fujita, T. T.; 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. pp. 271–274.
  • Kraft, Scott; Harper, Timothy (April 1, 1984). "Wreckage, victims tell tornado's tale on 450-mile route". Herald-American (Syracuse, New York). Associated Press. p. 16.

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