Genealogy, Local History

Twin City tornadoes, 1989…

As always, click the pix for full size…all images originally appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal and are scanned from our vertical files…

This image shows the track of three different tornadoes, the first an F2 from Farmington to Clemmons…the second an F3 from southwest Winston-Salem to Winston-Salem State University…the third, an F2, from Smith Reynolds Airport to Walkertown…

Yesterday, Dave Owen Y’all posted a picture of his mother’s “I survived the tornado” t-shirt…here, for those unfortunate enough to have missed it, is the story behind the t-shirt…on May 5, 1989 a total of 16 tornadoes struck in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, causing $169 million in damage, three deaths and 168 injuries. Three of those hit Forsyth County, NC. A tornado watch was issued for most of NC at about 5:30 PM EDT. But actual tornado warnings (a confirmed tornado on the ground) came too late for most of the area.

#1 F2 Caused damage in Farmington, crossed the river and struck Clemmons about 8:45 PM EDT. On the ground for roughly one mile. Three injured.

#2 F3 Touched down in southwest Winston-Salem at 8:50 PM EDT, ran through Ardmore and Old Salem. On the ground for eleven miles. Most of the trees on Salem Square were destroyed, as well as some in God’s Acre, and buildings damaged at Salem Academy & College. $25 million in insurance costs and 30 injured.

#3 F2 Struck Smith Reynolds Airport about 9:05 PM EDT and continued on the ground for six miles through Walkertown. Thirty tied down aircraft were tossed as far as fifty yards and two hangars were destroyed.

This image covers the path of the second, F3, storm and part of the third, F2 storm…

Total for Forsyth County was about $30 million in damage, zero deaths and 33 injured. Much of the money damage was caused by wind sheer rather than the actual tornadoes. Danger continued for some time after the storm because of downed live power lines in the area. Lack of deaths attributable to sheer luck.

One of the two hangars destroyed at Smith Reynolds Airport…

Here is a link to Wesley Young’s more detailed account in the W-S Journal, May, 2014, with some pictures:

http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/the-tornado-years-later/article_bc9dc510-c763-5b0d-9784-b4070ecd0854.html

Barkwood Drive, off Carver School Road near the airport was one of the hardest hit neighborhoods…
Tornadoes apparently cannot read signs…

A huge tree at the entrance to the Central Library on West Fifth Street went down…
Hawthorne Road at Miller Street…

Salem Square…
WFDD radio went off the air for a while when their tower fell across Miller Street…

5 thoughts on “Twin City tornadoes, 1989…”

  1. I was teaching at Carver High School in 1989 so this destruction happened in ‘my neighborhood.’ One of my students, who had taken refuge in her bathtub, ended up in her neighbor’s back yard. The back wall of her bathroom was ripped off and she was lifted up, up and swirled around before coming in for a relatively smooth landing. She was scared to death, but unscathed! Can you imagine!

  2. I was in the old Hanes Mall Theater with a first date, watching “Pet Semetary.” Just as the cat lurched onto the screen, the lights went out. We all thought it was a joke. No one knew what was going on. We were told that there had been some storms and that we could come back the next night to see the film if the power came back on. It did. We did. It wasn’t until I was driving home and saw all the carnage that I figured out it was more than just a “storm.”

  3. I was driving on I40West at Hawthorne curve! It was really frightening! I exited and went to a friend’s apartment close by. Thank goodness he was there! On the drive home on Silas Creek parkway, traffic was backed up for miles! It was pitch black. Power outages everywhere!

  4. On that date i was in Rev. Shirley Caesar’s church did not fear for i was giving God praises and getting God’s word did not know the devastation until after the storm was over took me a long time to get home my family was safe

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