One area hit heavily was just south of downtown Raleigh, the state capital, in and around the campus of Shaw University. Shaw is an independent, historically Black university founded in 1865. Shaw was also home from 1881 to 1914 of Leonard Medical School and School of Pharmacy that graduated some of the most influential African-American physicians and pharmacists of their day. Among those was the late Dr. James E. Shepard, founder of our university.
While Shaw was fortunate that no students or staff were killed or injured, damage to the campus was extensive enough that Shaw President Dr. Irma McClaurin has canceled classes for the rest of the semester. A detailed letter explaining how school activities cannot be safely conducted is contained within this PDF of a letter released today.
The city has set up a shelter at Southeast Raleigh High School for all in the area, including about 150 Shaw students who are reported displaced. While the campus is normally easily accessed from the S Saunders St exit on Interstate 40 (#298), streets in the area are closed and authorities recommend that all except trained aid and utility workers stay out of the area today.
Update 1: This assembly of time-lapse images from WRAL-TV shows a large column developing from the south toward downtown Raleigh.
Update 2: The NOAA report (PDF) on the tornado activity across a 63-mile path indicates that the tornado decreased in intensity as it hit Shaw, then strengthened again as it moved northeast.
Update 3 (Mon 18 Apr): Columnist Barry Saunders of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote this morning that a fund has been established to defray the costs associated with this weekend's tornado damage:
President McClaurin said the school has set up a disaster relief fund at Mechanics & Farmers Bank at 13 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, 27601. [Indicate on checks that the funds are intended for the "Shaw University Disaster Relief Fund."]
I've been live-streaming Shaw's excellent jazz radio station, WSHA 88.9 FM, since I finished teaching this morning and am learning that the community is really coming out in support of all those affected by these tornadoes.