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Tornado in North Carolina damages major Pfizer plant, closes highway

Authorities urged people to stay away from the area. At least four people were injured. Multiple structures were completely flattened.
Tornado in North Carolina damages major Pfizer plant, closes highway
Posted at 3:08 PM, Jul 19, 2023

An EF-2 strength tornado hit Rocky Mount, North Carolina on Wednesday and badly damaged multiple structures, including a Pfizer plant which is a major employer in the area. 

The powerful twister ripped roofs and siding off homes and buildings as the storm blew through, images showed. 

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The National Weather Service said the storm brought winds of up to 135 mph, and was gone by 1:30 p.m. local time when the service ended its tornado warning for the area. 

At least four people were sent to nearby hospitals to be treated for injuries, said to have been minor according to UNC Health Nash Hospital's spokesperson, CNN reported

Flying debris created a "wall" that was reportedly around 2.5 miles wide around I-95 in North Carolina's Nash County, WRAL reported

Keith Stone, Nash County Sheriff, said, "There is damage from residential houses to Pfizer, which is one of our largest employers and one of our largest medical factories in America. Stay out of the area until we can get power restored and get these areas safe."

Aerial images showed major damage to the Pfizer plant in Rocky Mount, about an hour outside of Raleigh. A major section of roofing on the campus appeared to be completely caved in. 

Pfizer said no one at the plant was injured. 

In a statement the company said, "At this point there are no reports of serious injuries. We are assessing the situation to determine the impact on production. Our thoughts are with our colleagues, our patients, and the community as we rebuild from this weather incident."

Authorities were working to clear downed trees before 1 p.m. local time from areas of closed down roadways, including on stretches of I-95 and U.S. 64.

Reports said some neighborhoods were inaccessible to first responders because of damage and debris blocking the roadways. Schools in the area released statements to parents telling them if students were not able to come to school on Thursday they would have their absences excused. 

Sheriff Stone told CNN, "It’s still a dangerous situation, we're trying to get as much of this cleaned up before nightfall."

North Carolina's Gov. Roy Cooper sent out a message on Twitter telling residents he was aware of the work of first responders, and that they were available to provide other aid apart from helping to clear roadways. Gov. Cooper said he had been in touch with sheriffs in multiple counties as they continued to assess the damage. 

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