New Bern
49° F
Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
Greenville
46° F
Clear
Clear
Jacksonville
47° F
Light Rain
Light Rain
Advertisement

Families remember devestating 1984 tornado outbreak

By Jonathan Weant
Published On: Mar 28 2014 05:21:54 PM CDT

 It was the largest and most devastating tornado outbreak in Eastern North Carolina.

 It was the largest and most devastating tornado outbreak in Eastern North Carolina.  The night was March 28th, 1984, it was a Wednesday….Millie Drake and her family had spent the night like any other, watching TV and saying their prayers before bed.

“When we started to pray, all the windows in my house had shattered, and the roof came off, the transformer from outside, it just came right into our house” said Millie Drake.

An F4 tornado ripped right through the middle of their home.

“I just remember him saying everything is gone, and it was, there were no houses anywhere” said Drake.

Right next door was the Martin family, Alice and her husband had just come in from Church.

“He was sucked out with the walls of the trailer, and the girls and I were pinned to the floor and we were taken up from the floor, felt kind of like you were pinned in box” Said Alice Martin.

Martin's husband was pinned under debris. Both families helped each other get out that night, and in the months that followed.

It was the most destructive tornado outbreak to ever hit Eastern North Carolina.

24 confirmed tornadoes, Seven of which were F4 tornadoes, killing 57 in all.

The National Severe Storm Forecast Center, now called The Storm Prediction Center, had all of Eastern North Carolina in a high risk of severe weather that day, the only time a high risk has ever been issued until April 2011.

Storm track 12's Chief Meteorologist Skip Waters was on air that night.

“It was the first time in my life that I was on the air, knowing that there were already people dead” said Skip.

After the warnings were over, he took time off from his weather duties to head out and help in the rescue efforts.

“One of the first things I saw when we got to La Grange was a car upside down, in a tree, with two adults and two children dead” said Skip.

By the time the storms had arrived in North Carolina....they had destroyed the communication tower the national weather service used to communicate warnings.