I was just looking at some remarkable photos that one of our photojournalists, Chris Seward, shot today up in North Raleigh. He photographed each house on both sides of a street. The randomness of the tornado that hit this subdivision could be seen in these photos. One home, some damage. The home next door, demolished. The next home, minor damage. And on and on, up and down the street.
I've never lived in a community hit by a tornado. My experience runs more to hurricanes. I learned last weekend that the difference is all about narrow violence and randomness.
When we were hit by Fran in '96, everyone was hit by Fran. Trees were down everywhere. Power was out everywhere. Saturday, most of the state, most of the Triangle, was fine. But not the unlucky towns and neighborhoods and streets in the path of one of the twisters that barreled through North Carolina.
This became clear to me late Saturday afternoon, as our reporters and photographers and editors were scrambling to cover the storms. I drove up Capital Boulevard to check out the damage north of downtown. Capital was fine, except for traffic signals being out. (Incidentally, people in Raleigh are very polite. At intersections from downtown to Mini City, motorists sorted out who had the right of way and traffic flowed despite the lack of traffic lights.) There was no damage.
A couple of blocks in on Trawick Road, things were very different. Trees were lying on top of houses, power lines and roads. People were already trying to clean up, but mostly folks looked stunned.
When Fran hit us 15 years ago, we had plenty of warning that a dangerous hurricane was coming up the coast. The only question was whether it would bounce off the shore or come in. When it arrived, it came up I-40 and belted the Triangle, but it wasn't like we weren't prepared.
Saturday, if you weren't watching TV or monitoring the web or listening to the radio, you probably didn't have any idea that tornadoes were on the way.