(WGHP) – Twenty-five years ago today, a tornado touched down in the small town of Stoneville in Rockingham County.
The tornado resulted in two deaths and 27 injuries. A third-grade teacher, 24-year-old Beth Mitchell, was killed after the tornado blew her car into a building. 80-year-old Powell Hickman was also killed. First responders reported that the tornado threw him out of his house.
On March 20, 1998, an F3 tornado with wind speeds between 135 and 165 miles per hour developed one mile southwest of Mayodan. The tornado touched down around 3:25 p.m. in an open field near Western Rockingham Middle School.
As it tracked through Rockingham County, it struck Unifi Plant No. 5, a textile manufacturing complex, tearing the roof and wall off one of its buildings.
Over 190 residences in Mayodan were damaged by the storm including extensive damage to the West Side Baptist Church, an apartment complex and an abandoned elementary school.
As the tornado continued past Mayodan, it crossed the Mayo River and traveled for several miles across forests and farmland.
By 3:30 p.m. the tornado entered the town of Stoneville traveling north along a rail line into the main business district along Henry Street, now home to Friendship Park, and caused damage to commercial structures.
By 3:49 p.m., after being on the ground for 12 miles, the tornado dissipated three miles northwest of the town of Eden.
The tornado caused damage to between 500 and 600 residences and affected numerous businesses. Several vehicles, including a fire truck, were also tossed some distance.
Tornado debris was found scattered up to 53 miles away in Huddleston, Virginia and some debris was found around the Martinsville area.
The tornado was the strongest on record to have struck Rockingham County.
Today, the community is holding a memorial to reflect on the 25 years since the devastating tornado.
The memorial starts at 3:15 p.m. and will be held at Friendship Park at the intersection of North Henry Street and Main Street in Stoneville.