State of Emergency issued in Autryville after tornado
Posted May 23
Updated May 24
Sampson County, N.C. — At least one person was injured and multiple buildings were damaged when a tornado touched down about 8 miles northeast of Clinton Tuesday afternoon.
The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday night that an EF1 tornado with wind speeds up to 110 mph touched down near Autryville in Sampson County at about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. Officials said the tornado tore a 100-yard-wide path through the county that ran sporadically for about 14 miles.
A State of Emergency was declared in Autryville, which sustained significant damage, Tuesday night. Town officials said a nightly curfew will be in effect from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. until further notice.
Power remained out in Autryville Tuesday night and crews were working to restore it.
The Red Cross arrived on the scene in Tuesday night to offer aid to those impacted by the tornado. Anybody in need of assistance as a result of the storm is asked to call 910-867-8151.
Pastor Michael Bartlett with Autryville Baptist Church was leaving the church when the storm came through and he said he heard a “freight train noise” followed by popping before he saw a cloud touch down.
"Just heading to the house, normal day. Thought it was going to be a quiet day, sure turned out to be everything but," Bartlett said.“It all happened so quickly, we’re all just kind of in shock."
Bartlett found himself watching as a tornado passed right in front of his house. He was able to hold his phone's camera steady enough to get a clear shot of the funnel.
The video, which lasts just over two minutes, shows debris being tossed through the air.
"Things just kind of slowed down. Honestly, you think you'll know how you'll respond to those situations, but when you're in the situation, it's different," Bartlett said.
The church building wasn’t damaged, Bartlett said, and although many lost their homes, he believes the damage could have been much worse based on the size of the cloud he saw.
“The tornado cloud was pretty big but, looking at the damage, it looks like we were spared based on the size of the tornado,” he said.
Fire department, homes suffer severe damage after tornado
The Autryville Fire Department was severely damaged in the storm and all but one of the fire trucks were damaged.
"Obviously the station and our fleet has been destroyed minus one apparatus," said Chief Andrew Hawkins.
Hawkins said firefighters were inside during the storm, but none were injured. When neighboring departments heard that the station took a direct hit, they came running to help.
"The outreach has been phenomenal as far as people just stepping in to help whether asked or not asked," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the town will now need all the help it can get.
"The future, I don't know what it is going to entail. I just know we are going to do teh best we can to support the community with what we do have," he said.
Sampson County Assistant County Manager Susan Holder Holder said one injury was reported after a mobile home rolled over in Autryville. The extent of the person's injuries was unknown.
Town officials said that one commercial building and several homes were damaged and several trees and power lines were knocked down.
"I was looking out and all at once I seen all kinds of debris coming," Autryville resident Gerald Locklear said.
Locklear was inside his home near Cooper Street in Autryville when the storm moved through. The tornado ripped away their storm door and lifted the roof.
"I have no home to come to. This was my home for nine years, over nine years, and it's gone," Locklear's wife, Torie Locklear said.
At a nearby home, a plank of wood could be seen sticking out of the roof and roofs were ripped off other neighboring homes.