Tales of the Tornado
18 Apr 2011
North Carolina Symphony Blog
Saturday, April 16, 2011 was a day to remember, when a violent band of thunderstorms spawned dozens of tornadoes that raged across central North Carolina. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the 22 North Carolinians who lost their lives on Saturday.

One of the most powerful tornadoes, which first touched down in Sanford, carved a path through downtown Raleigh and passed within yards of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, home of Meymandi Concert Hall. The storm knocked out power, downed numerous trees, and broke windows in the Center, and forced us to cancel our concert that night. Of course, we feel extraordinarily fortunate that was the extent of the Symphony's cost, which is minuscule compared to the destruction that has impacted so many communities in our state.

Like many people, I watched televised storm coverage with a gripping combination of fascination and terror. At first, it didn't quite seem real, as the weather broadcasters at WRAL-TV were reporting the signature radar patterns of tornadic activity, supported later by eyewitness accounts from communities to the southwest of Raleigh. Gradually it became obvious that this wasn't an academic exercise in interpreting radar echoes, but rather an impending and significant reality. My family and I prepared to huddle in a bathroom on the main floor of our house.

Fortunately we could see that the tornado's track had it moving to our east, and we were not in its crosshairs. (Still, we were deluged with one of the most impressive rain cells I've ever witnessed.)

At about 4:45, once the threat had passed, my phone rang, with our Director of Operations Allyn Love on the other end. He said was trying to get a status update on the Progress Energy Center, and that he'd call back when he had something. Over the course of the next hour, as information trickled in about what the tornado had left behind in downtown, it became increasingly apparent that there was no way we'd be able to hold our scheduled concert with Associate Conductor Sarah Hicks and guest pianist Stewart Goodyear (both of whom rode out the storm in the Marriott Hotel, just blocks from the Center). First and foremost, the Center had lost power, without which we wouldn't be able to run its lighting and safety systems. Second, and perhaps more significantly, there was so much tree damage in the downtown area, it didn't seem at all feasible, wise or safe to ask our musicians and patrons to come down for a concert. A call to Jim Lavery, General Manager of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, confirmed that we'd have to cancel.

We're very sorry that our loyal patrons who held tickets for Saturday's concert of Ravel, Dohnanyi, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky won't be able to hear that program as they'd hoped. I for one was really looking forward to it! If you had seats for that night, please call our box office for further ticketing information at 919.733.2750.
In the meantime, we will hope for the best as North Carolina's affected communities grapple with the aftereffects of this devastating storm.

P.S. I'd like to extend a special thanks to Mike Edwards, Production Supervisor for Meymandi Concert Hall, who was first on the scene and relayed his observations about the damage to us quickly and effectively. He also has kindly given us permission to share his photos of the storm's impact on the Center.

Some pictures of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts after the tornado.

Broken glass from the doors to Fletcher Opera Theater.
  Downed trees block South Street directly in front of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts
The Center's patio furniture, as rearranged by the tornado

Tree damage on the walk to Fletcher Opera Theater

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