Looking back at the 1984 Red Springs tornado
The largest and most devastating tornado outbreak in the Carolinas in the 20th century happened March 28th, 1984 when 22 tornadoes killed 57 people, 42 here in North Carolina; 800 more were injured.
The path of one deadly twister went right over the town of Red Springs on the edge of Robeson County.
For most people it was just an ordinary day in Red Springs, but Bill McFall knew otherwise. “That morning, about 10am, I looked at my barometer at home and it was dropping and I got to telling people in town that something bad was gonna happen. By that night it was down to 284 and I never have seen it down that low before or again.”
The weather quickly deteriorated around sunset.
“We were having storms, lightning and thunder, and suddenly I had this very eerie feeling,” explained Red Springs citizen Terry Powers.
At the same time, Fran Ray was at the Baptist church, working with the youth group. The girls in her group started noticing the weather taking a turn for the worse. “They said ‘Ms. Ray, something is happening outside’. And then all of the sudden it just started hailing terrible. I mean the sky just lit up with hail. And we realized some seriously was going on outside.”
Everyone moved to the hallway, away from all the windows. They did it just in time.
Around 7:30pm the F4 tornado touched down in the little town of Red Springs.
They lost a lot of trees that night; many of them were over 100 years old, and a big part of the area’s landscape.
Every substantial building in Red Springs sustained F1 or F2 damage. When all was said and done, 500 homes were damaged, more than 300 people were left homeless, and one person was killed.
Mayor George Paris said he’s glad it wasn’t more. “For a church that had numerous people in it and was destroyed for only one child to be killed that was a miracle in itself.”
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