‘I never felt my house move like that’

By on January 11, 2024

The home of Stumpy Point resident Jessica Duffy narrowly escaped being hit by this uprooted tree. (Photo courtesy Jessica Duffy)

Despite powerful winds, NWS concludes Dare County did not experience a tornado

Residents from Stumpy Point to Wanchese were left terrified and shaken up as reports of a suspected tornado passing through the area flooded Facebook on the stormy night of Tuesday, Jan. 9. Multiple Facebook users reported taking cover as a freight train-like sound bellowed through the area, shaking and pelting their homes with debris and uprooting multiple trees from the ground.

Those powerful winds occurred during a larger regional storm that passed through Eastern North Carolina on Tuesday, one which caused minor flooding and power outages in parts of the area, with the highest wind gust clocked at 102 mph at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.

According to Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson, the damage in Stumpy Point included a modular home that had been blown onto its side; a roof blown off a shed; an HVAC system blown off of a newly constructed home; siding blown off of another home; multiple uprooted trees from Stumpy Point to Wanchese; and trees that went through a roof and landed on multiple cars in Wanchese.

However, Pearson notes that this may not represent the full extent of the damage, as many individuals often opt not to report damages and handle repairs independently.

The lingering question for residents was whether the event they experienced was indeed a tornado. After assessing reports from the area, the National Weather Service has concluded it was not.

“We’re still always open to reports, and if we do get reports that look like it could possibly be tornadic damage, we would look into it further. But there are certain signatures to indicate a tornado that we look for—like convergent damage paths and trees blown down in different directions…So far, we just haven’t quite seen that,” says Carl Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Newport/Morehead City.

Barnes explains that all indications point to straight line winds, which according to the National Weather Service, are essentially thunderstorm winds that have no rotation. According to Barnes, that doesn’t mean the damage from straight line winds is any less cause for concern. These winds can be equally as damaging as a tornado and can produce that freight train-like whistling sound.

“So straight line winds would usually produce damage that’s all blown down in one direction, whereas tornadic winds would be more of a kind of a circular convergent damage path,” says Barnes.

In the first-hand accounts from residents in Stumpy Point and Wanchese, multiple users reported that it was the first time they followed tornado drill protocols during a storm on the Outer Banks.

“I don’t know how many storms I’ve been through over the years, but last night was the first time I got us all up and took cover,” wrote Wanchese resident Jade Midgett. “Thankfully we have minor damages, but the fear instilled will be with me for a long time.”

Another Wanchese resident wrote that they heard the wind begin to pick up at 10 p.m. until it became like a freight train coming towards their house.

“We jumped up and scrambled to the hall bath in the middle of the house…It passed by us fairly quickly within a minute or so. Had my heart racing! Thought it was gonna blow the roof off our place,” wrote the Facebook user.

Jessica Austin, who owns Blue Water Grill and Raw Bar at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo and lives in Wanchese, wrote, “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I’m assuming it was a tornado. I’ve never felt my house move like that. Thank the lord we are safe!”

Jessica Duffy, a Stumpy Point resident, says a falling tree nearly missed her house by one foot and water came in through the windows as her whole house shook.

“That was scary. I’ve lived in this county my whole life and never experienced something like that,” she said, adding that many large belongings in her yard were found in the woods behind her home and in her neighbor’s yard, and a drainpipe beneath her house was dislodged. “After riding down the road this morning, we were very lucky.”

Told of the conclusion by the National Weather Service, Jade Midgett responded that, “I, one hundred percent believe it was a tornado. It sounded and felt like someone hit our house with such forced that the window blinds were banging against the window frames. It felt like the air or pressure inside was getting sucked or something. I can’t explain it.”

SEE ALSO: Dare County Public Works to Provide Limited Storm Debris Pickup for Stumpy Point and areas of Wanchese


  • Joan mcminn

    Don’t know what hit us but I felt like all the air inside the house was sucked out. Some of the Sheetrock on sound side has cracked where the dormers r. All the trees I lost and those further up all r lying in same direction . The shed that blew down was already open on one end and rotted and it laid it down right where it was. I don’t know much about straight line winds but whatever it was has increased my fear of storms. Hurricane not so much. Thank goodness no one was injured. I just can’t figure out how a 40 foot shell of a boat was lifted from under the house and turned 90 degrees on side yard. But all the roof shingles that got damaged are only on the front side of houses facing the sound. Just another fun adventure in stumpy point

    Friday, Jan 12 @ 9:28 am
  • Jimmy John

    All these backseat driver meteorologists, think they know better than the pros. Joan, if all the trees downed are in the same direction, how would it not be straight line winds?

    Friday, Jan 12 @ 11:19 am
  • Steven

    Wind topped out at 88mph here on Hatteras. Power didn’t blink, no issues at all really, just high sound waters, no ocean flooding.

    Friday, Jan 12 @ 2:01 pm
  • Steven

    Our house did not seem to be affected at all, just a whistle around the storm door.
    2”x6” exterior walls
    1/2” plywood sheathing
    5/8” roof sheathing
    2×10 roof rafters with metal strapping to walls
    2×10 ceiling joists
    2×10 floor joists
    1/2” ply underpinning
    9 feet off ground.
    Cumulatively makes for a very rigid structure.
    Built it for $80 per square foot. 1,010 sq.ft.

    Highly recommend using 2×6 for all exterior walls, bonus is added insulation, same with floors joists, 2×10

    Friday, Jan 12 @ 8:17 pm