Vaughan-Lake Gaston, NC F2 Tornado – October 2, 1969

SPC Stats:

Path length: 5.6 miles

Width:  100 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  0

Rating:  F2

County:  Warren, Halifax

A total of 5 tornadoes were confirmed on October 2, 1969.  We look at the strongest, an F2 that had a skipping path from near Vaughan, NC to Lake Gaston.  There are a couple of discrepancies I want to note.  First of all, the SPC path length is 5.6 miles.  Storm Data actually comes in with a slightly longer path of 8 miles.  When I plotted the SPC coordinates (see below), they have the starting point north of Vaughan.  It should be closer to the town.  If you begin that path closer to Vaughan and go to Lake Gaston, the distance is closer to 7-8 miles depending on where the tornado dissipated over the lake.

Secondly, the SPC list the tornado going through Warren and Halifax Counties.  Storm Data lists Warren County only and when you plot the SPC coordinates, the path is in Warren County only.  

Storm Data lists one church, 2 homes, several tobacco barns and other outbuildings were destroyed.  They do not officially list the name of the town where that damage occurred.  Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes states they damage was in Vaughan.  A witness reported seeing water lifted "in a sheet about fifty feet high" when the tornado moved over Lake Gaston.  There were no fatalities and no injuries due to this event.

I found a copy of The Warren Record from October 9, 1969.  They release a weekly paper and on this date they had pictures and accounts of what happened during the tornado on October 2.  Many thanks to The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center for permission to use the newspaper in this summary.  http://www.digitalnc.org

Here are some of the details of the tornado path and damage from The Warren Record.  

  • Struck in the Vaughan section around 2pm and “leaped” to the Lake Gaston Bridge area.  Per the article it appeared the tornado developed just south of the railroad about 1/2 mile west of Vaughan.  
  • Caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to buildings and trees - greatest damage in a half-mile stretch from Bethlehem Christian Church to south of Eaton Ferry Bridge
  • Front of the Bethlehem Christian Church was destroyed and a nearby hay barn was “blown away”
  • Grey’s Store lost its roof and the back part of the buildings.
  • In a section of pine woods near Grey’s Store, “it looked like a bulldozer had cut a path some 50 yards wide and two or three hundred yards deep in these woods.”
  • According to a man who was fishing under Gaston Lake Bridge, the tornado lifted “a sheet of water 50 feet in the air.”
  • Many people were interviewed for the article to give their account, here is one of those accounts:

NOAA Storm Data Entry

Moved northeastward on a broken path from Vaughan to Lake Gaston.  Funnel seen, sound like jet planes heard. Water lifted “in a sheet about fifty feet high” when funnel moved over Lake Gaston, according to a witness.  One church, two homes and several tobacco barns and other outbuildings destroyed, numerous trees twisted off.

Tornado Path

Click map to enlarge.

The path shows the SPC coordinates:  Start: 36.45 / -78.00      End: 36.50 / -77.92

There was damage reported near Vaughan so the coordinates are off.  They should start south of the given beginning point.

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

Clips from The Warren Record - Courtesy of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

Here is a link to the full front page of the October 9, 1969 edition of the paper:  http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073168/1969-10-09/ed-1/seq-1.pdf

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the October 1969 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 5.6 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a length at 8 miles.

Sources:

The Storm Prediction Center

NCDC Storm Events Database

October 1969 Storm Data Publication

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

newspapers.com

Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1107.