Tornadoes are produced during severe thunderstorms, which are created near the junction between warm, moist air and cold, dry air.  Tornadoes derive their energy from the heat contained in warm, moist air masses.  Tornadoes do not form during every thunderstorm.  They occur when the moist, warm air is trapped beneath a stable layer of cold dry air by an intervening layer of warm dry air.  This is called an inversion.  If this is disturbed, the moist air will push through the stable air that is holding it down.  This warm air will then condense as the latent heat it holds is released. This air will then spiral upwards.  With the help of different types of winds, this spiral gains speed, producing a tornado.


A tornado path is generally less than .6 miles wide.  The length of the path ranges from a few hundred meters to dozens of kilometers. A tornado will rarely last longer than 30 minutes.  The combinations of conditions that cause tornadoes are common across the southern U.S. in early spring, especially in April and May.  Tornadoes have been recorded as lifting and moving objects weighing more than 300 tons up to 30 feet.  They can also lift homes off of their foundations and move them 300 feet.  They collect an incredible amount of debris, which they can whirl out of their winds at high velocities. Tornadoes are usually accompanies by heavy rain.

Tornadoes can cause large amounts of property damage, injury, and death.  . Although more twisters hit Tornado Alley -- the states that run from Texas up through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Nebraska -- more people are killed by the tornadoes that land in the Southeast.  The reasons given for the disparity include the different housing, geography and population density and the greater tendency of tornadoes in the Southeast to strike at night.  Between 1950 and 1997, the Tornado Alley states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri had 13,808 tornadoes, according to data compiled by the National Storm Prediction Center. In those storms, 1,132 people died. In Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, there were 9,178 tornadoes and 1,648 deaths.

The National Weather Service issues a tornado watch for a specific location when the conditions are ripe for tornadoes, and they are expected within a few hours.   A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has actually been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

 History of Tornadoes in Lenoir County

Lenoir County experienced 8 tornadic episodes between 1993 and February 2003.  These tornadoes caused injuries, fatalities, and property damage.  The only tornado to cause fatalities was an F4 that occurred in 1984.  This caused 16 fatalities, 153 injuries, and $50 million of property damage throughout three counties, including Lenoir.The following list describes the tornado occurrences between 01/01/93 and 12/30/2010.

05/05/2009 – Tornado (F0).  EF-0 tornado touchdown near Moss Hill off Highway 11. Path length 100 yards, path width 25 yards. Three tin roofs peeled off turkey barns.  Approximately $5,000 worth of damage.

4/05/2008 – Tornado (F0).  NWS Storm Survey rating of EF0 tornado in the Jonestown area east of Highway 11 to Route 258. Multiple trees twisted and uprooted with structural damage to several outbuildings equaling approximately $5,000.

10/22/2005 – Tornado (F0).  Public reported a tornado with downed trees in the La Grange area.

06/29/2004 – Tornado (F0).  A tornado struck the town of La Grange and caused approximately $5,000 worth of damage to a mobile home.

02/14/00 – Tornado (F0).  A tornado was reported by the 911 Center near Centennial Trail just off of Highway 11. Numerous trees were knocked down.

04/15/99 – Tornado (F1).  A tornado briefly touched down near Pink Hill.  Debris was believed to cause the 2 injuries that were reported.  This was associated with the F2 tornado that moved across Duplin and Jones Counties.

05/04/98 – Funnel Cloud.  A possible funnel cloud was reported at Dobbs Rd. near the airport.

04/01/98 – 4 Tornadoes (Three were F1, one was F0) .  A series of tornadoes across Lenoir, Craven, and Jones counties produced nearly a half million dollars in damages and 3 injuries, none of which were serious.  The first occurrence occurred in the southwest section of Lenoir County on Daly’s Chapel Rd.  This ripped a roof off a trailer and damaged a turkey farm.  Shortly afterwards, a tornado on David Rd., east of Hardy Bridge Rd in Moss Hill, destroyed an airplane hangar and several planes. An outbuilding was destroyed and a Ford Explorer was rolled several times.  About 3 miles southwest of Kinston, another tornado destroyed a pole barn and damaged 11 trailers.  One of these trailers had 3 occupants who were slightly injured.  There were several other tornadoes that touched down in open fields.

09/16/96 – Tornado (F1).  Kinston Public Service complex on Highway 258 south of Kinston was hit by this tornado.  Steel I-beams were twisted and bent upwards.  Wind equipment measured 145mph winds before it stopped working.  Two other sets of wind equipment were blown away.  A warehouse across the street lost its roof.  There was damage at Lenoir Community College and Diamond Warehouse on Highway 58.  A roof was sheared off a house on Highway 55 in Sand Hill.  Property damage was estimated at $1 million dollars.

04/15/96 – 4 Tornadoes (Three were F0 and 1 was F1) and 1 Funnel Cloud (F0).  A tornado was reported in an open field near Mewborn’s Crossroads, NC 58.  A tornado also touched down in Forest Hills Estates off HWY 258.  Several mobile homes were damages.  The total property damage was $200,000.  Eyewitnesses also reported a tornado near HWY 70 and HWY 258.  A tornado was reported near Deep Run and NC11 in an open field.   A funnel was also spotted near the hospital just north of Kinston. 

01/07/95 – Tornado (F1).  This touched down just east of LaGrange on HWY 70.  This destroyed 8 trailers and caused 8 injuries.  One trailer was picked up and thrown through another.  Tie downs were ripped out of the ground, frames twisted, and cars overturned.  This caused $50,000 in damages.

      08/02/93 – Tornado (F1).  This touched down northeast of Graingers and moved northeast to near the Pitt/Lenoir County border.  No structural damage was reported, but many trees were blown or twisted down.  $5,000 occurred in property damage.

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