04/15/12 764 W, 1 I - + 14 - 6 Raleigh Tornado Response Summary, 1988

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the April 16, 2011, tornado that tore through the Capital City. Its path started near Tryon and Lake Wheeler roads, continued northeast through downtown and east Raleigh, and then along a parallel path east of Highway 401. It destroyed 146 structures and heavily damaged 719 others. Four people were killed.

For emergency responders, the severe weather brought one of their busiest days in years. See original blog posting, see photos by Legeros, see special Raleigh Fire Department newsletter edition (PDF). Also search the blog on "tornado" for more related posts.

But that wasn't the city's first experience with a tornado in modern memory. Many remembered the night of November 28, 1988, when a tornado plowed through northwest Raleigh. The 1:00 a.m. storm struck with virtually no warning, killing two and injuring 102 others. Townridge Square Shopping Center on Highway 70, shown below, served as command post and staging area for the hundreds of responders. It was also the site of a flattened KMart store, where an employee was trapped for more than two hours. See closer view.

Gary Knight/CCBI photo

Two days later, on November 30, 1988, the fire department submitted this response summary to the City Manager’s office. The Raleigh Fire Department in 1988 protected 201,111 residents and 86.95 square miles with 17 fire stations, 18 engines, 4 aerial trucks, 2 service trucks, and 2 rescue units. They had 355 authorized positions in FY88 (including 335 firefighters) and answered 9,409 fire calls that year. The fire chief was Sherman Pickard.

Tornado Disaster Incident - November 28, 1988

City of Raleigh Units and Personnel Responding

Number of personnel - Approximately 225

Number of units

Number of gallons of fuel - 638
Mileage of all equipment - 1,550
Number of overtime hours - Approximately 1443.75

[ Raleigh Police Department information was not included in report ]

Wake County Fire Units and Personnel:

*Indicates volunteer [department] that the city of Raleigh contracts with.

Wake County Fire Marshal's Office:

Wake County EMS/Rescue [Squad] Units:

Wake County Sheriff's Department:

[ Other law enforcement response not noted. Recall that Wake SO also brought their mobile command post to the scene. ]

Durham County Units and Personnel:

[ Did the fire department response include counties other than Wake and Durham? ]

Other Outside EMS/Rescue Squad Units:

Gasoline/Diesel Used Other Than Raleigh:

[ The Wake County School System supplied a couple fuel trucks at the command post, in addition to the Raleigh Fire Department fuel truck ]

Where is Durham Highway on any of the lists?
Just wondering - 04/16/12 - 16:12

Great question, and particularly when examined through the lens of a historian. Based on this single source— this report— can we establish with absolutely certainty that Durham Highway FD did not participate in the tornado response? No. In fact, given the proximity of the fire department’s district to the tornado, just the opposite should be thought.

DHFD was certainly affected by the tornado. They had a station on Davis Circle, a stone’s throw from the collapsed K-Mart. Their station was either damaged or blown over by the storm. Can’t recall specifically which (and if you search the blog, we probably have that tale here). Did that preclude their availability as responders for the incident? Don’t know. Readers can perhaps recall and enlighten.

How then to explain their absence in the cited report? The document also does not document participation of the Raleigh Police Department. But it’s absolutely certain that city police officers responded to the incident. Thus we should conclude that the document is not 100-percent accurate. Though it’s still a valuable document, for sure. Particularly better than having nothing, and playing the “can you remember” guessing game. But we’d want to research more.

And one more reason why you can never believe everything you’re told, at least until confirmed or corroborated by a second source.
Legeros - 04/16/12 - 18:15

Listened to a tape of this incident years back with a younger Capt. Dunn calling some shots early in the incident.
Chris - 04/17/12 - 00:01

Johnston county dispatched every fire dept in the county that night and I believe most sent a least one piece if not two pieces of equipment to Raleigh.
CaptMayo - 12/01/13 - 09:54

Yes, there were and are 24 fire department agencies in Johnston County. Most departments still have the plaque on the wall that was given by the Wake County Commissioners for helping with the incident.
Jason Thompson (Email) (Web Site) - 12/01/13 - 10:24

Remember personal info?

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