North Carolina has a history of deadly tornadoes in the fall

North Carolina has a history of deadly tornadoes in the fall

When most of us think of severe storms, we usually think of the spring months. However, severe weather, including hurricanes, can occur in any month of the year.

What you need to know

  • One of the strongest tornadoes to hit North Carolina occurred in Raleigh on November 28, 1988.
  • There have been several deadly tornadoes occurring at night during the month of November
  • North Carolina has the highest incidence of nighttime tornado deaths and fatal nighttime tornado events

Here in North Carolina, severe storms occur most often from March to May, but there is a second peak of severe storms that comes during the fall months.

We have a history of deadly tornadoes in November.

1988 Raleigh Hurricane

One of the strongest tornadoes on record in North Carolina touched down in Raleigh near Umsted State Park just after 1 a.m. on November 28, 1988. It was classified as an F4 tornado on the Fujita scale that ranges from F0 to F5.

The hurricane stayed on the ground for 84 miles, almost reaching the Virginia border. It was eventually filed in Northampton County just outside Roanoke Rapids.

The tornado struck while most people were sleeping, killing four people. Two of the dead were children. Another 157 people were injured.

Reports from the National Weather Service (NWS) show the tornado destroyed 425 homes. More than 2,000 homes were damaged.

2006 Rigelwood Hurricane

Another deadly tornado occurred on November 16, 2006 in a small community in the southeastern part of the state. This tornado was rated as an EF3 on the newer Enhanced Fujita scale.

The plane landed in Rigelwood, located in Columbus County, just as the sun began to rise shortly after 6:30 a.m., and more than 35 manufactured homes were damaged or destroyed.

The Rigelwood tornado killed eight people. Many of them were likely still asleep and did not hear the tornado warning that was issued.

2008 tornado outbreak

About two years after the Rigelwood tornado, a deadly outbreak of tornadoes occurred in the Carolinas. Seven tornadoes occurred during the late night and early morning hours on November 14 and 15, 2008.

The strongest was an EF3 tornado that touched down near Wilson and Elm City. It killed one person and injured seven.

Tornado damage from November 2008 near Elm City in Wilson County. (Photo: National Weather Service)

Another EF2 tornado touched down near Kenly in Johnston County and killed one person.

Tornadoes are often more deadly at night

A study published in 2008 in the journal Weather forecasting It found that only 28% of tornadoes in North Carolina occur at night, but 81% of all tornado deaths occur at night. When the study was published, North Carolina led the nation in overnight tornado deaths.

Tornadoes are dangerous at any time, but they are often deadliest at night because it is difficult to receive weather alerts when most people are asleep.

There are some things you can do to prepare for severe weather at night. First, purchase a NOAA weather radio with a spare battery. You can find these radios at most electronic stores, and they can be programmed to sound an alarm when the NWS issues a warning for your county.

Also check the settings on your smartphone. Make sure all wireless emergency alerts are turned on. Your mobile device will then sound an alert any time the NWS issues a tornado warning or flash flood warning for your location.

When a tornado warning is issued, seek shelter in a small interior room in the basement of your home. A windowless basement, closet, hallway, or bathroom often provides the best protection during a hurricane.

Our team of meteorologists dig deep into the science of weather and analyze timely weather data and information. To see more weather and climate news, Check out our weather blogs section.

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