Special Bulletin on the 2011 Tornado Outbreak
Today is the anniversary of the worst tornado outbreak in NC history! It was just three years ago.
What I remember most is that for several days, the TV news and weather reports were filled with stories and pictures of total destruction across the southeastern parts of the United States. What I marvel at is that we all sat in our recliners, in our comfortable homes, and ooohed and ahhhed, while staring at the plasma/HD idiot box at the reports of coming destruction and did absolutely nothing. We just sat there in our comfortable couches and recliners, all snug and smug in a blanket of ignorance and decorated with denial, feeling certain that a tornado could never have that kind of effect on us here is North Carolina. We just knew it would fizzle out before reaching our state. Greg Fishel, Gary Stephenson, Chris Hohmann and many other weather professionals told us the dangerous front was heading our way. Meteorologists repeatedly warned us of this dynamic weather system sliding across the US leaving a huge trail of destruction, death and damages. Did we heed the warnings ahead of time? Did we make advance preparations? Or did we wait until WRAL was signing off because the tornado was headed down Western Blvd. to get off our duffs and do something?
Here are some facts from the National Weather Service for that day:
- Estimates of total structural damage in central North Carolina was added up to more than $328 million dollars.
- 24 individuals lost their lives across NC and 400 more sustained injuries.
- Two tornadoes were on the ground for more than 58 miles.
- 30 confirmed tornadoes added up to the greatest one-day total for NC.
- More than two thirds of NC was affected by this weather front.
Please look at the sheer number of counties that qualified for a Federal disaster. It is almost 1/3 of the state.
This was not just a freak natural event. North Carolinians are vulnerable to serious weather events all year long. If anything, that outbreak should teach us to get up out of those comfortable chairs and prepare for disasters. Like we say in NC Emergency Management circles, “It is not IF we have a disaster, it is WHEN we have a disaster.”
We can no longer play the innocent citizens who were blindsided. It is real and it happens here. Are you prepared? Is your museum, library or historic site prepared? Think about it…just think about it.
–Lyn Triplett, C2C Disaster Preparedness Coordinator