South Carolina Nature May 25, 2016
A Terrifying, Deadly Storm Struck South Carolina In 1984… And No One Saw It Coming
On the afternoon of March 28, 1984, deadly tornados moved into western South Carolina. A tornado “watch” had been issued after tornadic activity was spotted in a storm that was moving through Georgia and heading toward South Carolina. Two tornados had touched down in Georgia in the period of an hour and five minutes; one of them was very brief and lasted seconds, the other injured one person. The damages to life, lives and property in South Carolina were devastating.
When all was said and done in this "watch" that had been issued for the Palmetto State, a total of eleven tornados would touch down here chewing a path 175 miles across our great state in just over 5 hours. Here's a summary of each one.
Due West, SC
At 4:30pm, the first touchdown to hit South Carolina was in the small picturesque town of Due West. The path of the tornado was three miles. Although the touchdown was brief it injured 24 people.
Ten minutes later, at 4:40pm, another tornado with a path 18 miles long touched down just north of Laurens. It damaged and completely destroyed homes and community buildings. There were 43 reported injuries with this leg of the storm.
Forty minutes later, Newberry saw the first of TWO tornados that afternoon. It went right through Newberry's charming downtown. The tornado's path was 23 miles long; in places it was one-quarter mile wide. News reports sugggested poor Newberry looked like a "war zone" after 80 businesses were damaged or destroyed. 38 people were injured and one person was killed.
But the storm wasn't finished with Newberry yet. Here's some archival footage of the damage in Newberry: VIDEO20 minutes after the tornado scraped through the downtown area in Newberry, another tornado hit to the east of Newberry. Its path was 19 miles and it moved to the east injuring another 10 people. In all, the two tornados would destroy more than 300 homes and just shy of 100 businesses. The total damage (in 1984 dollars) was $14.2 million. Fatalities: 1.
At 6:00pm as darkness was about to set in, the north side of Winnsboro got hit with a tornado that would be responsible for 5 deaths. She touched down and then moved across Interstate 77 but not before smashing into a school. Local reports said school buses were airbore as the tornado ravaged the property. 64 dwellings were damaged or destroyed.
At 6:20pm, to the southwest of Kershaw a mobile home park was destroyed and 23 people were injured. The tornado that touched down here had a path 4 miles long.
Barely 20 minutes later, McBee was hit when a tornado touched down; its path four miles in length. A mobile home park received serious damage and 31 people we injured in McBee before the storm pushed eastward.
At 6:45pm, roughly five minutes after the tornado touched down to the east in McBee, Cheraw was hit. The path of this tornado was seven miles. It destroyed four homes and two businesses in the Prettiest Little Town In Dixie. In addition, several farm buildings we destroyed as it moved through. 24 people were injured.
Two differrent tornados touched down in Bennettsville, killing a total of 11 people. The first seven deaths occured from the first tornado that touched down almost exactly at the end of the path of Cheraw's tornado. Its path was long enough to take it all the way across the North Carolina border. This first tornado destroyed the Northwoods Shopping Center and an apartment complex. The seven deaths occured in the communities of Fletcher and Lester just before the storm crossed the state line.
The second tornado tho strike Bennettsville touched down 10 minutes after the first, at 7:20pm. It's path was a massive 45 miles. In places it was 2 miles wide. East of Bennettsville, the storm did serious damage to the towns of Tatum and McColl before crossing into North Carolina and ending in Parkton, NC. In all, 395 people were injured in both states from this one lengthy and powerful F4 tornado that hit Bennettsville and moved east northeast.
At 9:35, more than two hours after the Bennettsville hits, a tornado touched down in Loris. It destroyed some dwellings and injured eight people. Its path was a whopping 16 miles long.
Here's a mapped summary of the paths of the tornados from this storm as passed through South Carolina and on into North Carolina. According to Wikipedia, citing NOAA and NCDC, this was the worst two-state tornadic outbreak in 100 years.
Do you remember this massive tragic storm? We’d love to hear in our comments on Facebook.