Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines 89.9 Chadbourn
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NC Tornadoes: One Year Later

One year ago today, tornadoes tore across North Carolina leaving death and damage in their wake. While many areas are continuing to recover, some have made the long journey back, better than ever. 

Gurnal Scott: April 16th 2011, much of North Carolina got an up close and personal look at Mother Nature’s fury.

Weather Service: The National Weather Service in Raleigh has issued a Tornado Warning for Northern Nash County, Northeastern Franklin County.

Witness: I watched it hit the circle cloud, tornado, hit the corner of the building and watched pieces of plywood circle around as telephone poles snapped about the same time.

Bev Perdue: From toothpaste and deodorant to clothes to wear to school to toys to play with to food to eat. We can all give a little something and we should. Our Neighbors and our friends need us.

The National Weather Service confirmed thirty tornados across North Carolina that day, the most on any single day in state history. 24 lives were lost. Damages soared to hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of the tornadoes that dropped from the sky hit highly-populated areas putting thousands at home and at work on that Saturday at risk

Earp’s Seafood on South Saunders Street in Raleigh has been a part of that neighborhood for more than four decades.

Dave Salmon: My father-in-law started this business with about fifty dollars in his pocket. There was a little strip mall across the street. It was a little two-lane highway then. He had a little area over there and he had three or four varieties of fish. He got to growing, then he came over here bought this land and built this building.

Dave Salmon is the manager. There is a din of several refrigeration units, after all, they do sell fresh seafood. He greets every customer like a long-time buddy but a year ago, one phone call made him become more protector than friend.

Dave Salmon: My daughter who works for 911 gave me a call and said Daddy there's a tornado heading your way and it's going to hit you guys in about five minutes. Of course, you know you don't take that seriously. So she called me back and said you better get those people back somewhere because it's definitely going to hit you. So I got my people in the back room and they were reluctant to go back there. We said there was a tornado coming but they didn't believe it. But I got them in the back room about two minutes before it hit, so we were fortunate that nobody got hurt. Typical freight train kind of sound? Absolutely. I hear people say it sounds like a freight train. That's exactly what it sounded like. It sounded like a train was on top of this roof and it was ripping and tearing. In reality, it only lasted about 10 seconds but it felt like it lasted a lot longer.

The tornado that tore through was an EF-1: packing winds of up to 110 miles per hour.

Dave Salmon: I walked outside and it looked like a war zone. I had tires that were out front. Some of the cars the customers had were damaged out here. So I just stood there and wondered what are we gonna do. I mean here we are..our building's gone. What are we gonna do to get this thing back.

Twelve months later customers like Elizabeth Jaiman have returned to their weekly ritual of buying seafood. She says in the time the store was gone, store was gone, she missed this place..

Elizabeth Jaiman: I was ready to come down there and tell them just give me a hammer. Whatever you tell me to hammer, I'll hammer it down for you. Nice and sturdy this time. But I was glad. I was so scared they were going to leave.

Salmon had his own worries.

Dave Salmon: My wife and I had doubts with being out for nine months. Would our customers come back? But we've got loyal customers and the day we opened up..the reopening..they were lined all down the road and we had four TV stations out here. Our customers are back. They're loyal and they were waiting for us to come back in business.

South Saunders Street, for the most part, is back to business one year later. One auto body shop is still under construction and that is a welcome sight..compared to the tornado-ravaged image of April 16th, 2011

Dave Salmon: There was a blessing that came out of this. We got a new store. But I wouldn't want to go through this again. That was a nightmare.

Gurnal Scott joined North Carolina Public Radio in March 2012 after several stops in radio and television. After graduating from the College of Charleston in his South Carolina hometown, he began his career in radio there. He started as a sports reporter at News/Talk Radio WTMA and won five Sportscaster of the Year awards. In 1997, Gurnal moved on to television as general assignment reporter and weekend anchor for WCSC-TV in Charleston. He anchored the market's top-rated weekend newscasts until leaving Charleston for Memphis, TN in 2002. Gurnal worked at WPTY-TV for two years before returning to his roots in radio. He joined the staff of Memphis' NewsRadio 600 WREC in 2004 eventually rising to News Director. In 2006, Raleigh news radio station WPTF came calling and he became the station's chief correspondent. Gurnal’s reporting has been honored by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, the North Carolina Associated Press, and the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas.
More Stories