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Jan. 19, 2004 — A line of strong thunderstorms, unusual for January, spawned two tornadoes in the western Carolinas on January 13, causing extensive damage with only one minor injury reported. — Full storm report

When Laurens High School officials received the tornado warning over NOAA Weather Radio during an evening wrestling match, they immediately interrupted the match and led students and spectators to a place of safety. Twenty minutes after the warning was issued by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Greenville-Spartanburg the tornado passed over the school grounds. Although the high school was spared serious damage, the roof was torn off an adjacent school building and considerable damage was sustained by nearby homes, trees and power lines.

"This is an excellent example of the value of a timely warning when local officials have an effective action plan in place to receive warnings and act quickly," said NOAA's NWS Vince DiCarlo, warning coordination meteorologist at Greenville-Spartanburg.

According to a recent article in South Carolina's Greenville News, "the silver lining of the tornado that devastated parts of Laurens last week was that no one was killed, but things might have been different if not for the warnings from high-tech weather radios, a school district official said."

"Fortunately, the wrestling match was cancelled because of the warning from the school's National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) weather radio, and students were moved to a safer area," said Dr. Ed Taylor, superintendent of Laurens County School District 55. "In the Laurens school district, every school has a NOAA weather radio, which broadcast severe weather warnings directly from the National Weather Service." he added.

After the warning was issued at 7:02 p.m. for Laurens County, the erratic tornado touched down briefly in a rural area about 7:10 p.m. It then lifted and touched down again near Laurens High School at 7:22 p.m. and traced a two mile track, speeding northeastward at 45 mph. It touched down briefly for a third and final time at 7:30 p.m. where it struck a large tire distribution center, sparking a huge fire. Residents within a half-mile of the facility were evacuated.

"Even though the area was hard hit, the timely warning broadcast on NOAA weather radio allowed local officials and residents to take necessary actions to protect lives. The events at Laurens High School illustrate the effectiveness of a coordinated partnership between the National Weather Service and local officials," said Joseph Pelissier, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS Greenville Spartanburg office. "I am proud of the performance of our warning team, who contributed so effectively to the National Weather Service's mission of protecting lives and property," he added.

Media contacts:

Marcie Katcher, National Weather Service: (631) 244-0149

Related Web sites:

NOAA's National Weather Service
NOAA Weather Radio
NWS Forecast Office in Greenville-Spartanburg

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  Page last modified: 11-Mar-2010 9:35 AM