Since 1950, North Carolina has averaged 14 tornadoes and two tornado-related fatalities each year.  1998 was a record tornado year in North Carolina with 66 confirmed tornadoes through the end of November.  The previous record year was 1996, when 51 tornadoes hit the state.

In North Carolina, F0 and F1 tornadoes account for 77% of all tornadoes, but only 9% of all damages, 3% of all fatalities, and 14% of all injuries.  As the storms’ strength increases, so does their ability to produce death and damage.  F4 tornadoes account for a mere 2.5% of all NC tornadoes, but have produced 52% of all damage costs, 40% of all tornado fatalities, and 44% of tornado injuries.

Some of North Carolina’s Tornadoes

  • Enigma Outbreak: An early recorded outbreak that occurred on February 19 and 20, 1884.  An estimated 60+ tornadoes killed between 178 and 1,200 people.  In North Carolina, 23 were killed near Rockingham when an F4 tornado struck.  Total damages for this outbreak were between $3 and 4 million ($65-87 million in 2008 dollars, which is impressive considering how rural the US was in 1884).

  • Cordele-Greensboro Outbreak: 14 killed – 144 injured near Greensboro when an F4 tornado struck near downtown Greensboro, NC, carving a line that somewhat follows High Point Road towards Bennett College, and causing $22 million in damage. 

  • Super Outbreak: April 3 and 4, 1974 – Massive tornado outbreak with 148 storms.  315 people killed in 13 states.  North Carolina gets hit by 8 tornadoes: #116 (Apalachia Dam on the Hiwassee River – F0), #117 (Graham County – F2 – 2 killed), #121 (Murphy, NC – F4 – 4 killed), #124 (near Murphy, NC – F1), #129 (Near Murphy, NC, F0), #132 (Rosman, NC – F1), #147 (Swain County – F2), and #148 (Granite Falls, NC – F2).  In NC, the Super Outbreak killed 6, injured 37, and caused more than $25 million in damages ($115.5 million in 2007 dollars).
  • 1984 Carolinas Tornado Outbreak: March 28, 1984….  an odd outbreak that produced more F4 tornadoes than F0’s, F1’s, F2’s, and F3’s.  A total of 24 tornadoes – including 7 F4’s, roared through North and South Carolina.  The Bennettsville, SC area was hit by 3 F4’s within a short time.  57 people died (42 in North Carolina) during this outbreak that cost $578 million ($1.15 billion in 2008 dollars).
  • November 1988 Outbreaks: November 28 tornado in Raleigh killed 4 – 156 injured in 9 counties with $77 million in damages

  • May 1989 Tornado Outbreak: May 5-6, 1989….. 5 killed and 159 injured as tornadoes strike 22 counties, including Alamance; damages were estimated at $102 million

  • Palm Sunday Outbreak of 1994: 3/27/1994….  Series of storms (Palm Sunday Storms) roared out of Alabama, spawning numerous tornadoes.  Forty-four people were killed over the Southeast.  Nineteen at a church in Piedmont, Alabama.   Two persons died in North Carolina.  Estimated $20 million in damages.   Forty counties involved, including Alamance County.

  • Gainesville-Stonevill Outbreak: March 20, 1998….  12 tornadoes touched down from Georgia to Virginia, 10 of them in North Carolina.  One F3 tornado hit the town of Stoneville, killing 2 and injuring several.  Damages from that storm alone were estimated at $34 million.

  • Mid-May 2008 Outbreak: Three sperate outbreaks of tornadoes occurred during May 2008.  The second sequence affected North Carolina with 11 confirmed tornadoes. 

Alamance County Tornadoes
The following list is compiled from various sources:

  • Cordele-Greensboro Outbreak: The same outbreak that killed 14 in Greensboro also produced an F2 tornado that killed 1 and injured 4 just north of Mebane.  This is the strongest Alamance County on record and the only fatal tornado.
  • March 19, 1975: An early morning F1 tornado strikes northeast Alamance County and injures 1.
  • July 21, 1977: An F1 tornado causes $250,000 in damage near Snow Camp.
  • May 26, 1983: A brief F1 touchdown near Alamance causes $25,000 in damage.
  • May 1989 Tornado Outbreak: On May 5, 1989, this series of storms produces F1 damage in western Burlington and Elon. 
  • Palm Sunday Outbreak of 1994: 3/27/1994.  The massive outbreak produces a brief F0 touchdown in the far southwest section of the county.
  • March 4, 2008: An F0 storm produces $150,000 in damage in Union Ridge.