SPC Stats

Path length: 83 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  4

Injuries:  154

Rating:  F4

County:  Wake, Franklin, Nash, Halifax

A devastating F4 tornado made its way across 5 North Carolina counties on November 28, 1988.  The tornado began at 1am EST in Umstead National Park in the NW part of Raleigh.  It ended almost 2 hours later, two miles NW of Jackson in Northampton County.  An 83 mile track that was almost continuous.  

Per the NWS Storm Data Entry, the strongest damage (F3 and minimal F4) occurred along a 4 mile stretch extending northeast from US Highway 70 to four miles east of the Raleigh-Durham Airport.

Overall, 426 residences and 78 businesses were destroyed.  Over 2000 residences were damaged.  There were 154 injuries and 4 fatalities.

Two children were killed in Raleigh:  8-year-old Janet Barnes and 12-year-old Pete Fulghum.  From the Asheville Citizen-Times, November 29, 1988:

A clip from the Greenville News, December 1, 1988:

Near the Nash-Franklin County line, Leroy and Mary Alston were killed in their mobile.  Here is a clip from the Rocky Mount Telegram from November 28.

NOTE:  This tornado is found on November 27 in the SPC Database.  They list all events in Central Time so the timestamp for this is 23:00 on 11/27. The tornado though officially occurred at 01:00 EST on November 28.  

Storm Data Entry

At 0100 EST, a powerful tornado touched down in Umstead State Park in the northwest part of Raleigh, 3 miles southeast of the center of Raleigh-Durham Airport.  The tornado racked across one of the most densely populated areas of the city of Raleigh, destroying hundreds of homes and damaging thousands of others.  Two people were killed in Raleigh.  The strongest damage, most F3 with some very weak F4, occurred along a 4 mile long portion of the path extending northeast from where it crossed US Highway 70, four miles east of Raleigh-Durham Airport.  Numerous businesses along US Highway 70 were destroyed, including a K-Mart.

From northwest Raleigh, the tornado continued northeast through Wake County and entered Franklin County near US Highway 401.  It stayed on the ground as it crossed the county, passing north of New Hope and Justice before exiting the county near N.C. 58.  The tornado then cut across the northwest corner of Nash County between Castalia and Aventon, killing a man and a woman in a mobile home.  Still on the ground the tornado entered Halifax County near Ita and crossed Interstate 95 at the junction of N.C. 561.  It then passed just south of the town of Halifax where it entered Northampton County.  It continued through Northampton County for about ten miles and lifted near N.C. 305, two miles northwest of Jackson.

The tornado destroyed a total of 426 residences and 78 businesses.  It damaged 2057 residences, leaving 978 people homeless.  Four people were killed and 154 were injured.  Total damage was near $77.2 million.

The track of the tornado was almost continuous for 83 miles.  It moved at 50 mph along the ground.  Most people who were near the tornado reported hearing a loud roaring sound many minutes before the tornado passed. 

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 35.87 / -78.75     End: 36.45 / -77.42

Included the county coordinates provided by the NCDC database.

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


Newspaper Clippings


We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the November 1988 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:


  • SPC/NCDC have a 400 yard width.
  • Storm Data has a width of 250 yards.
  • Grazulis has a width of 200 yards.


  • Because the SPC using Central time, this tornado event is found in the database on November 27.  It officially occurred though at 0100 EST, making the date November 28.


      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      November 1988 Storm Data Publication

      NWS Raleigh Overview


      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1285.

      Did you enjoy reading about this event?  Help us create MORE summaries like this one by becoming a Patreon Supporter!

       Become a Patron! 


      Questions or comments about this summary?  Contact us here: http://tornadotalk.com/contact-us/

      Join the tornado history discussion on our Discord Channel:  https://discordapp.com/invite/Xm43dQj