Weather

Western NC storms spawned tornado

Posted January 11, 2012
Updated January 12, 2012

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— The National Weather Service said it was a tornado that damaged dozens of homes and injured at least 15 people in western North Carolina.

The weather service's forecast office in Greer, S.C., said Thursday that investigators confirmed the EF2 tornado with winds of around 115 miles per hour.

The storm system struck Rutherford and Burke counties Wednesday afternoon. At least 10 people were hurt in the Ellenboro community of Rutherford County, with five injures reported in Burke County.

Burke County Fire Marshal Mark Pitts said at least 16 homes were destroyed and about 50 others damaged.

At least 10 buildings were damaged in a 3-square-mile residential area, but Rutherford County, sheriff's Sgt. Dwayne Wright said officials expected to get a better count on the damage during surveys Thursday.

Some people initially were trapped in their homes.

"Everybody's out that we know of," Wright said. "As far as we know, everybody has been accounted for."

A woman in Ellenboro told WCNC-TV that a neighbor's roof ended up in her front yard.

"It felt like the whole house was shaking, and all at once you could hear stuff just breaking apart and tearing up. It was frightening," said Mary Jane Hollifield.

Tornado Aerial: Storm damage in western NC

One woman said the storm hit so quickly that she thought she was going to die.

"Just as I sat down, it hit, and I said, ' Oh Lord, take care of me," she said. "I could hear it rumbling, and I knew there would be real bad damage."

At least five people were hurt when the storm struck a few minutes later in the Icard area in eastern Burke County, where a mobile home park was nearly wiped out.

Storm Damage Winter tornadoes leave damage in Western NC

There were multiple injuries and damage to other homes, including one family being trapped in a basement when the storm toppled the house on top of them.

"We know we have 16 homes destroyed and about 50 that have been damaged to various degrees," Burke County Fire Marshal Mark Pitts said.

In Hildebrand, about 3 miles east of Icard, roofs were torn off buildings, trees were toppled, and at one house, a truck was flipped.

rutherford tornado Rutherford County houses damaged in apparent tornado

There were also power outages, with around 100 customers still without electricity Thursday morning, according to Pitts. This is the first time he can remember such a severe storm at this time of year in the western county about an hour's drive north of Charlotte.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter in Icard. The relief agency said at least 15 people had checked into the shelter at a church by 9 p.m.

Burke County schools open two hours later than usual Thursday.

Gov. Bev Perdue toured the tour the area Thursday morning and met with victims after being briefed by emergency management officials on recovery efforts.

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  • westernwake1 Jan 12, 2012

    "I disagree. "People who are too stupid to leave extra space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them in the rain produce traffic hassles."

    'The real problem are the knuckleheads who cut in front of you when you leave enough space between you and the car in front of you during bad weather.' - eoms

    Exactly! Of course people cutting in front of you are even more likely to cause an accident, which naturally leads people to not leave extra space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them... which leads to traffic hassles and accidents.

    It's a vicious cycle...

  • jollyrogered Jan 12, 2012

    Clif- they're simply reporting. It means something to meteorologists and climatologists, but not to the rest of us really. Its just an update on information.

    Good to remember that you should always try to be aware of the weather around your area.

  • Nunya123 Jan 12, 2012

    Crumps Br0ther - LOL, so true.

  • mmtlash Jan 12, 2012

    usually this time of year those folks are worrying about snowstorms, not tornados....this is a wacky winter weatherwise!

  • Crumps Br0ther Jan 12, 2012

    "Rainy roads produce traffic hassles"

    It's because people shove their heads up their backsides to keep it dry when its raining

  • carolinarox Jan 12, 2012

    I don't know haggis, is it ice or debris? When the tornadoes hit Raleigh last spring, I had a bunch of insulation in my trees and it looked like this tree, except mine didn't fall.

  • clif4 Jan 12, 2012

    I had posted this elsewhere, but that article is no more, so I'll post again (hopefully).

    I was watching the news this morning about the severe weather in the western part of NC and the reporters seemed to be overly fixated on whether or not the damage and injuries were cause by a tornado.

    It's obvious that the damage and injuries were the result of severe weather, but I'm wondering why it makes a difference if it was a tornado or not (as the reporters seemed to imply).

  • wildcat Jan 12, 2012

    Well man don't have control of these kinds of storms. Just get somewhere where it is safe. May all families involved will get help and have a warm place to stay until things do get better for them all. Pray for them.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jan 12, 2012

    In the first picture that shows a large tree down and a home damaged, it looks like the tree is covered in ice. If so, this would have made the trees easier to blow down in slower winds.

  • eoms Jan 12, 2012

    "I disagree. "People who are too stupid to leave extra space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them in the rain produce traffic hassles."

    The real problem are the knuckleheads who cut in front of you when you leave enough space between you and the car in front of you during bad weather.

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