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Tornado Outbreak 13 Years Ago Is A Reminder To Be Prepared For Violent Spring Weather

Source: WRAL

North Carolina has seen some extreme weather over the years. Our history is well documented with the destruction of hurricanes over the years. There are even memories of historic snowfall in January 2000 when as much as 20 inches fell across many parts of our state. But on Saturday, April 16, 2011, the weather here could be described as something out of the Twister movie. 

The week leading up to that Saturday local meteorologists were forecasting the risk of some severe weather that day. Friday just 24 hours away the National Weather Service in Raleigh was nearly certain this would be a bad day. The weather service issued a level 5 risk for severe weather, the highest scale warning possible. 

That afternoon the skies opened up and very violent storms started to form across many parts of North Carolina. Just before 3 pm, a storm produced a tornado in Sanford, NC about 45 minutes southwest of Raleigh. The tornado was 500 yards wide and categorized as an EF-3 tornado packing winds between 136-165 mph. The storm was in the direct path of Wake County and the City of Raleigh. 

Tornado warnings were issued for the counties in the path of this storm including Raleigh and surrounding areas. The storm prediction path had the tornado crossing over The National Weather Service office on the campus of N.C. State University so the team there had to take shelter.  During the warning, the weather office in Blacksburg, VA took control in monitoring the situation. WRAL TV-5 had to evacuate staff to the basement of their building with only meteorologists Mike Maze and Nate Johnson staying behind to track the storms.

The tornado crossed through downtown Raleigh leaving a path of destruction as it continued and finally fell apart in Franklin County. During that same time, another tornado warning was issued for Hoke, Cumberland, and Johnston counties as another EF3 tornado slammed through that region carving an 800-yard-wide path of destruction. 

In total there were 30 confirmed tornados across North Carolina that day totaling $328 million in damage. More importantly, there were 304 injuries and 24 deaths from the outbreak including four young children ages 3, 8, 9, and 6 months in Raleigh at the Stony Brook North community from a tree crashing through their home.  

Many survivors describe that day as experiencing something unimaginable and out of a Hollywood film. It is now springtime across North Carolina and as the weather gets warmer so does the chances for dangerous weather. Please make sure you are monitoring the weather forecast and have an emergency plan in place in the event of severe weather. 

Read more on the tornado outbreak here   

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