Remembering the deadly tornadoes of 1984 - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

29 Years ago today: Remembering the deadly tornadoes of 1984

ROSEBORO, NC (WECT) - This week marks the 29th anniversary of the deadliest tornado outbreak in North Carolina since the 1800s.

The images that WECT captured in the hours after the 1984 Tornado Outbreak are stunning.  They show the devastating outcome of the most violent and deadly Carolina tornado outbreak in 100 years.

Families dug for lost members through the wreckage the winds left behind - shoppers were trapped between the timber of destroyed buildings - dead bodies lie in moist ditches.

More than 22 tornadoes ripped through southeastern North Carolina killing 57 people and injuring 800 more.

Former Red Springs Mayor George Paris recalls witnessing 70 percent of the downtown buildings destroyed.

"You began to realize things you had always taken for granted were not going to be there anymore," said Paris.

Years and years have past, giving landscape an opportunity to return to normal.  While many of the uprooted trees have grown back and people forgotten the events of March 28, 1984, some markings left in the wake of the storm are impossible to forget.

Pat and Norman Hulen live in a home outside of Clinton, and in just a matter of minutes an F3 tornado tore their family apart forever.

Fortunately they weren't home when the tornado hit, but Pat's mother and their 9-year-old nephew, Michael, were caught in the storm in a trailer behind their home.

The trailer wasn't found until the next morning.

"We finally got information that they had found her mother and our nephew on top of the back porch of our house," said Norman.  "The trailer was up there as well. There was a refrigerator on top of them."

"They turned the mattress over and found him, Michael was in her arms," said Pat.

"That's exactly the way I felt in my stomach, that someone had walked up beside me, doubled up there fist and hit me as hard as they could," said Norman.

Like many other tornado survivors that night, the Hulen's had no warning.

Much has changed over the past 25 years, including the updating of doppler radar products that more easily detect rotating air.

The passing time has given the wounds of March 28 a chance to heal.

"I've come to believe that it was their time to go, and God called them home," said Norman.  "He had a use for them, I wish he'd taken me instead, but he had a use for me here."

"Letters we got would have a check in it or some money, people came to clean up," said Pat. "People talk abut bad things, but there's a lot of good in a lot of good people."

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