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Has a major tornado hit Wilmington?

Merton Vance

Although deadly tornadoes have struck Southeastern North Carolina, Wilmington has been spared from catastrophic storms in recent history.

The National Climate Data Center lists 15 tornadoes that were observed in New Hanover County from 1950 through 2009, none of them more powerful than an F1 on the Fujita scale for measuring tornado intensity, meaning the storms were capable of moderate damage.

All of those storms combined resulted in no fatalities and five injuries.

Several of those tornadoes  were affiliated with hurricanes or tropical storms. Two tornadoes coincided with Hurricane Floyd on Sept. 15, 1999, and an Oct. 8, 1996 tornado occurred during Tropical Storm Josephine. None of those three tornadoes caused significant damage.

Since 1950, 21 tornadoes were reported in Brunswick County, with no injuries or fatalities.

Pender County had 26 tornadoes, including three fatalities and 31 injuries.

All three fatalities and 29 of the injuries were caused by an Aug. 14, 2004 tornado that was generated by the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie. The tornado hit in the Rocky Point community, where it destroyed 17 houses and damaged 25 others.

The worst tornado to hit in Southeastern North Carolina in recent years was a Nov. 16, 2006 storm that struck Riegelwood  in Columbus County, killing eight people,  injuring 20, and destroying 13 homes. That storm was estimated to be an F3, with estimated wind speeds of 200 mph.

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