Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, April 17, 2011 - 7:42PM CDT

April 16 North Carolina tornado outbreak (update 3)

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Update 7:42PM Sunday:: Preliminary damage survey - EF-3 damage in Sanford, EF-2 in Raleigh:

NWS PDF: NWS Raleigh preliminary damage survey

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Update 2:59PM Sunday:: Some additional information and images:

PHOTOS: Raleigh damage photos from Matt
VIDEO CLIP: Youtube clip of downtown Raleigh tornado from RBC plaza

The NWS is currently conducting damage surveys in the region - stay tuned for updates.

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Posted 12:30AM Sunday:: As if I haven't already said it enough how tornadoes are not just a Great Plains hazard, possibly the tornado outbreak of the decade on several counts has occured in North Carolina on Saturday. Personally just as unreal is the fact that my brother Matt and his wife Beth suffered a direct tornado strike to their house near downtown Raleigh, bringing the number of family homesteads damaged by severe storms this month to three (my house in Charleston WV, my grandmother's in Dunbar and now this). This is an event I would have covered without a doubt had there been a way for me to fund the trip with $4/gallon gas.

As many of you know if you've been a longtime reader here, Raleigh is one of my 'anchor' cities, a place I've frequented, considered moving to and one with many friends and family ties. Even though I 'armchaired' this day from here in Illinois, it was quite an intense afternoon as I nowcasted for observer friends Bill Coyle and Jesse Bass, and later scoured the internet and live video feeds for information on the fate of Matt and Beth's house.

Matt and Beth's house, located near South Saunders street just south of downtown, appears to have been struck by the eastern side of a broad tornado circulation. Dirt and debris caked the south-facing side of the house. The front porch pillars have been shifted, suggesting the porch roof may have been lifted slightly to allow their movement. A large pecan tree in the backyard was uprooted, and several small trees in front and back are missing entirely - nowhere to be found. A garden hose in the front was pulled and extended all the way across the yard. Businesses on South Saunders street, less than 1/4 mile away from the house, were completely destroyed.

Meanwhile, Bill and Jesse intercepted the rain-wrapped tornado on the I-440 beltline near Capitol Boulevard, where they observed power flashes as the tornado crossed the highway. They went on eastward to the next storm in the line to capture a second tornado in Wilson along Highway 264:

VIDEO: 4/16 NC tornadoes by Bill Coyle and Jesse Bass

Matt and Beth were both away from home at the time of the tornado (Matt was 3 hours away in Charlotte). From radar images and a downtown live camera, we knew the tornado likely passed near or over the house, but did not know the extent of the damage. I spent the better part of 90 minutes combing through Twitter feeds, live news broadcasts, spotter reports and incoming viewer photos/videos for any information on the neighborhood. Finally, Beth's dad was able to reach the scene, followed by the ABC 11 news helicopter broadcasting a live picture of the intact house - allowing us all to breathe a sigh of relief.

As a storm chaser, the events of late are definitely adding a new element to my whole experience with severe weather. It was quite a stressful two hours not knowing whether a family member's house still existed or not - and I know it was that way for all of us.

Due to the still-unfolding information stream on this historic event, I will update this post with new items as they become available. The casualty and damage numbers from this outbreak may top all but one or two events USA-wide in the past decade or more.

thanks for your coverage. the video was incredible. The anxiety that the family felt was lessened because of your efforts in finding out what was going on. YOU ARE THE BEST!!!
- Posted by mom

Thanks! Glad things turned out to not be as bad as we thought - could have been a lot worse.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL

So glad I found you...great job and what an incredible view you get of these monsters. I, for one, am glad I can trust God for safety in these times, as we live in northern Indiana and have been hit and have gone through several severe storms. Seems to be a volatile Spring and we just possibly could go through the year this way. The Sun is really acting up... Be safe!
- Posted by Mid from Northern Indiana

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