Double trouble

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two tornadoes have been confirmed in Bertie County by the National Weather Service.

According to a tornado damage survey report released by the NWS office in Wakefield, Va., the storm that ripped a path of destruction between Askewville and Colerain produced two different tornadoes, an EF3 and an EF2.

The Saturday evening storm is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 11 people in Bertie County and destroying numerous homes.

A team from NWS Wakefield surveyed the tornado damage Sunday to determine a rating for the twisters on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, used to estimate a tornado’s wind speed.

Wakefield Meteorologist Mike Montefusco said the storm survey team has specifics to quantify the tornado damage from torquing of trees to the types of vehicles tossed by the storm.

“Basically visual cues are what you look for,” he said. “In this case, larger vehicles were moved which is certainly indicative of an EF3.”

Preliminary reports show the largest of the tornadoes was an EF3 with estimated wind speeds of 136 to 165 miles per hour.

The EF3 tornado was the first to touch down in the county, one mile south of Askewville at 6:55 p.m. causing minor tree and building damage at first. The tornado then tracked continuously for 18.8 miles, wreaking havoc in the rural communities near Askewville and Colerain. The NWS tornado survey team estimated the twister to be one-half to three-fourths of a mile wide.

The team noted EF2 (estimated wind speeds 111 to 135 miles per hour) and EF3 damage was widespread just west of Askewville and northeast and west of Colerain. The tornado gradually decreased in strength as it crossed in to Hertford County near Harrellsville. The EF3 tornado is blamed for killing 11 people and injuring an estimated 50 people.

The reports said northwest of Colerain there was a significant split in the tornado damage, suggesting the EF3 tornado “underwent a cyclic re-development” with two tornadoes on the ground at the same time for approximately 7.8 miles.

Montefusco said this re-development with a strong tornado is not uncommon.

The second tornado, rated an EF2, touched down just northwest of Colerain at approximately 7:05 p.m. The twister was an estimated 300 to 500 yards wide and tracked parallel and just east of the stronger tornado.

North of Colerain, the EF2 traveled parallel to Route 45 for approximately one mile and then continued northeast into Hertford County, just west of the Chowan River.

The report notes the last visible damage from that tornado was near the western shore of the river approximately four miles east of Harrellsville.

Along its path, the report states, the tornado damaged several homes, buildings, poultry houses and farm equipment. The survey suggested the smaller tornado did not cause any deaths or injuries.