May 1989 tornado outbreak

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May 1989 tornado outbreak
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration May 5, 1989
Tornadoes confirmed 16
Max rating1 F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 ~ 7 hours
Damage $169 million (non-normalized)
Casualties 7 fatalities, 168 injuries
Areas affected Georgia, The Carolinas, Virginia

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The May 1989 tornado outbreak occurred on May 5, 1989. The outbreak spawned 16 tornadoes in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and was responsible for a combined total of $169 million in damage in the four states. It also caused 7 deaths and 168 injuries.

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 0 8 5 1 3 0 16

Sources: [1]

F# Location County Time (EST) Path length Damage
F1 near Gainesville Hall 03:20 1 mile
Minor damage northeast of Gainesville.
F2 Toccoa area Stephens GA, Oconee SC 04:00 8 miles
Tornado crossed from Georgia into South Carolina near Toccoa. A shopping plaza was severely damaged, and a drugstore and a supermarket sustained major structural damage. Homes and mobile homes were damaged as well, and downed power lines started a house fire. $2.9 million in damage.
South Carolina
F1 near Walhalla Oconee 04:40 2 miles
Brief touchdown.
F4 SW of Chesnee to SW of Henrietta Spartanburg SC, Cherokee SC, Rutherford NC 05:20 9 miles
2 Deaths - First violent tornado of the outbreak passed close to Chesnee before crossing the NC/SC state line into SE Rutherford County. Homes were leveled and swept away near Chesnee, and two people were killed in that area. Near Henrietta, three trailers, one business, and four homes were destroyed, one of which was a well-built brick home. Six trailers and 21 homes were damaged. Caused $3,500,000 in damage and injured 35 people.
North Carolina
F4 NW of Lawndale Cleveland, Lincoln, Catawba 05:50 14 miles
4 Deaths - Half-mile wide, multi-vortex tornado caused severe damage in the communities of Belwood and Vale. In Cleveland County, 15 homes were destroyed and 34 others were damaged. Some of the destroyed homes were well-built. Two churches were destroyed as well. In Lincoln County, the tornado struck the community of Toluca, killing four people. 10 homes and 9 trailers were destroyed, and 12 other residences were damaged in the county. Three of the fatalities in Toluca were in vehicles, some of which were carried up to 300 yards away. In Catawba County, 13 homes and 4 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed. Caused millions of dollars in damage and injured 53 people.
F2 Durham Durham 06:20 9 miles
Tornado moved through southern and eastern Durham. Two businesses were destroyed, and a convenience store was nearly destroyed. 16 homes were destroyed and 46 others were damaged. An elementary school was damaged as well. Caused $15,000,000 in damage, but no fatalities or injuries occurred.
F2 near Lenoir Caldwell 06:28 15 miles
Moderate damage near Lenoir.
F4 W of Monroe to S of Fairview Union 07:00 13 miles
1 Death - Tornado struck the Charlotte suburb of Indian Trail. 12 homes and 10 mobile homes were destroyed, and 24 residences sustained varying degrees of damage. Three businesses were heavily damaged as well, and a flea market was destroyed. Fatality occurred in a mobile home. Injured 6 people and caused $8,000,000 in damage.
F1 W of Oxford Granville 07:05 3 miles
Tornado was spawned by the Durham supercell.
F2 Clemmons Forsyth 07:45 1 mile
Struck the Winston-Salem suburb of Clemmons. A gas station was destroyed, trees were downed, and homes were damaged. Three people were injured.
F3 Winston-Salem Forsyth 07:50 11 miles
2nd Forsyth County tornado produces over $25 million in F3 damage on a SW to NE track through the city, striking colonial-era neighborhoods and just missing downtown. Storm criss-crossed old I-40 in multiple locations. Widespread downburst damage in many locations around Winston-Salem. Tornado injured 30 people.
F2 S of Wadesboro to W of Morven Anson 07:50 5 miles
A trailer, a house, and several barns were destroyed. 5 other residences were damaged, and one person was injured.
F1 Oakboro Stanly 08:00 0.5 mile
Very brief touchdown, from the same storm that produced the earlier Indian Trail tornado.
F2 N of Walkertown Forsyth 08:05 6 miles
Third Forsyth County tornado, formed almost immediately after the Winston-Salem tornado dissipated, and continued along an extension of the same path. 30 aircraft at Smith-Reynolds Airport were tossed and hangars were damaged.
F1 Burlington/Elon areas Alamance unk time 3 miles
Tornado produced F1 damage in western Burlington and Elon.[1]
F1 near Louisa Louisa 09:00 2 miles
Isolated tornado touches down between Charlottesville and Richmond. F1 damage occurred along a short, but wide path.
F1 near Louisa Louisa 09:50 2 miles
Second Louisa County tornado touches down from separate thunderstorm, several miles east of previous Louisa tornado.

Georgia and South Carolina[edit]

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
North Carolina 5 Lincoln 4
Union 1
South Carolina 2 Spartanburg 2
Totals 7
All deaths were tornado-related

The first tornadoes of this outbreak were reported between 1 and 2 P.M. near Gainesville, Georgia and Toccoa, Georgia. During the mid-afternoon, severe storms began moving northeast into the northwest corner of South Carolina, spawning additional tornadoes in Oconee County.

The first violent tornado (F4? intensity - see Fujita scale) of the outbreak was reported shortly thereafter, north and northeast of Spartanburg and Gaffney, South Carolina.

North Carolina and Virginia[edit]

Other F4 tornadoes soon formed just to the north (on a path from northern Cleveland County to southwest of Hickory), and also in Union County, southeast of Charlotte. The Cleveland-Lincoln-Catawba tornado caused 30 injuries and $20 million in property damage in the Belwood community, before then causing 4 fatalities and 19 additional injuries in the Toluca community in northwestern Lincoln County. Weaker tornadoes were noted in the NC foothills near Lenoir, and the Union County supercell later spawned F1 tornadoes in nearby Anson and Stanly counties.

Later in the afternoon, a strong F3 tornado produced $25 million in damage on a southwest-to-northeast path through the city of Winston-Salem. Damage from this storm was visible along Business I-40 and US 421 in southwest Winston-Salem. The historic Old Salem area was also hard hit; many century-old trees in Salem Square and God's Acre were heavily damaged by the winds and had to be removed. Due to the difficulty in getting heavy equipment into the cemetery Gods Acre, those trees were removed by a helicopter. In the surrounding areas of Forsyth County, NC, two other tornadoes were confirmed between 5:30 and 6:15 P.M. Strong winds associated with the same squall line downed a radio transmission tower in nearby High Point. Winds toppled large trees and caused roof damage in the Emerywood neighborhood of the city. At about the same time, a series of weaker and short-lived tornadoes nonetheless also managed to produce $27.5 million in damage in northern Durham and southwest Granville counties.

Later in the evening, the last two tornadoes of the outbreak produced minor damage in Louisa County, between Richmond and Charlottesville.

Ultimate toll[edit]

Large hail and wind damage reports were widespread - golf-ball sized hail was recorded near Columbia, South Carolina and Monroe, North Carolina, with severe wind reports from over 100 counties from Georgia to Maryland. Some form of storm damage was noted in almost every North Carolina county between I-95 and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

See also[edit]