20 Years since Thanksgiving disaster

November 26, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Just after midnight on November 28, 1988, a devastating tornado ripped through parts of Raleigh. Four people died statewide, including two young children, and it was a miracle the death toll wasn't higher.It was the Sunday following Thanksgiving when the storm carved a path of destruction about 85-miles long. It first touched down in the area of Umstead State Park, and then did heavy damage in densely populated Raleigh, before hitting more homes to the north and east of Wake County.

Among the neighborhoods hardest hit were the homes on Mourning Dove Drive.

"The tornado hit as we were running down the steps. We were not injured but the house was pretty well destroyed," recalled storm victim Marian Shuttlesworth in an interview with Eyewitness News 10 years after the storm.

Nathan Shuttlesworth was just nine at the time, but he recalled being awakened and looking out the window as the twister approached.

"My mom came in and yanked my hair and yelled for my sister to get up out of bed and she dragged us downstairs," he said.

Victims say the weather that day had been unseasonably warm and humid. When the twister hit that night, it came with a roar that some compared to a train - others to the sound of a jet engine.

A 12-year-old boy died when the storm destroyed his home, and a 9-year-old girl in the Hampton Oaks neighborhood died when debris from a collapsed chimney landed on her. But there were also incredible stories of survival. A baby was sucked out of his house, but he landed safely near a tree and was covered with debris.

Despite the passing of 20 years, survivors say the events of that night will be with them forever. They also say there were some lessons they learned that they'd like to pass on to others.

Among them, the need for a weather radio in every home. They say the automatic alerts can give you the time you need to seek shelter when a tornado is in the area. The 1988 storm, coming in the middle of the night, caught many in their beds.

Click here for more information from the National Weather Service about weather radios


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