SPC Stats

Path length: 0.70 miles

Width:  100 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  1

Rating:  F4

County:  Marion

On November 7, 1995, an outbreak of 40 tornadoes affected the Southeast. 28 of these tornadoes occurred in the state of South Carolina. This summary looks at the strongest tornado of the outbreak, a quick hitting F4 near the town of Marion. This rating is disputed, which we will delve into down below.

The brief tornado formed about 2.5 miles south-southeast of Marion and tracked east for less than 3/4 of a mile. It was a QLCS tornado, meaning it was spawned by a squall-line. A mobile home was completely destroyed, and a house sustained major roof damage. The Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was heavily damaged. The sanctuary portion of the church was leveled. The church bell was found 400 yards to the east of the church. One minor injury was reported.

Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes rates the tornado as an F2. Here is why he says it was only an F2. “Attached to a roof and the wooden structure that surrounded the bell, the 150-200 pound bell could easily have traveled 400 yards in F2 winds. The ranking of a short-path, 40-yard wide tornado near the top of the intensity scale (F4) seems dubious, even without knowledge of the damage left behind. Knowing that the rating is based, subjectively, on the movement of an object, positioned at the very top of a building, the rating moved from unlikely to absurd. Professor Fujita, on page 106 of Significant Tornadoes, showed a 390-pound brick chimney could be carried for 400 feet by as little as 127 mph wind. That example used downbursts winds that did not have the vertical wind component that accompanies a tornado…. A vertical wind component that might greatly assist the flight. Other damage from the tornado is consistent with F2.”

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 34.146 / -79.3545   End:  34.1431 / -79.3421

Corrected Coordinates based on damage reports:   Start:   34.152739 / -79.371656  End:  34.152809 / -79.359264   

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photos from NWS Wilmington

The Pleasant Grove Baptist Church after the tornado (NWS Wilmington).
The destroyed trailer (NWS Wilmington).
The destroyed trailer (NWS Wilmington).

Radar Imagery from NWS Wilmington

Reflectivity radar of the squall-line when the Marion tornado was occurring. The coordinates show where the tornado was.
Velocity radar of the squall-line when the Marion tornado was occurring. The coordinates show where the tornado was.

Discrepancies:

We gathered the information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the November 1995 Storm Data Publication (SDP), and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences

Path Width:

  • SPC has a 100-yard path width
  • NCDC, Storm Data, and Grazulis have a 40-yard path width

    Rating:

    • SPC, NCDC, and Storm Data list this as an F4
    • Grazulis lists this as an F2

    Sources:

    The Storm Prediction Center

    NCDC Storm Events Database

    November 1995 Storm Data Publication

    Personal communication with National Weather Service Wilmington. 

    Grazulis, Thomas P. (1997). Significant Tornadoes 1992-1995 Update: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1390.

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