NC tornadoes confirmed in Friday's severe storms

From staff and wire reportsApril 26, 2014 

Strong storms rolled through the Triangle on Friday, but eastern and coastal North Carolina bore the brunt of the severe weather.

The National Weather Service on Saturday confirmed that tornadoes touched down in Pitt and Beaufort counties on Friday. A low-end EF-2 struck near Chicod in Pitt County, a moderate EF-2 hit near Chocowinity and a high-end EF-2 struck Whichards Beach, meteorologists said.

On the enhanced Fujita scale, an EF-2 has winds of between 111 mph and 135 mph for a 3-second gust.

Beaufort County Emergency Management Director John Pack said 16 people were taken to the emergency room with injuries related to the storms that passed through about 7:25 p.m. Friday.

Pack said the storm appeared to be about 300 yards wide and was on the ground for 10 miles. He said the line of damage started in the west-northwest portion of the county and traveled to the northeast.

Two hundred homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, Pack said, and two major farming operations sustained damage. About 8,000 people were without power at one point, though by midday Saturday, the number was down to 300, Pack said.

Near Elizabeth City, downed trees were visible along U.S. 17, and litter from metal storage buildings was strewn in the fields of Pasquotank County on Saturday morning. The roof of the Riley Wellness Center on the campus of Elizabeth City State University was damaged Friday when high winds ripped the metal off.

In the Meadowlands neighborhood of Elizabeth City on Saturday, Tiffany Haynes of Hertford showed up with cold water for those who had lost their home, including Hugo Segura. Segura and his friend Felix Perez searched through Segura's overturned double-wide home, which was propped on its side after it had rolled over. Segura was not home when the storm hit.

The North Carolina Department of Emergency Management reported that at least 25 people were injured by tornadoes in Beaufort, Chowan, Greene, Halifax, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties and at least 300 homes were damaged in those areas.

A state of emergency was declared in Beaufort County and a shelter was opened overnight Friday for people affected by the storms, the emergency department said. Power was out overnight in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, and flooding was reported in Halifax County, along with more power outages.

The Red Cross was on the scene in Beaufort, Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, delivering meals and offering other assistance to help residents recover from the storm. The organization opened a shelter in Perquimans.

Gov. Pat McCrory in a news release Saturday expressed his thanks to first responders. “Thankfully, we do not have any reported fatalities from the string of severe thunderstorms that raked through the northern half of our state,” McCrory said. “Last night's storms provide a good reminder to us all that with the warmer weather, the probability of severe storms and tornadoes increases."

On Sunday, McCrory was scheduled to tour areas damaged by Friday's weather. McCrory will be joined by other officials first in Beaufort County, where at noon Sunday he will tour areas around Chocowinity. He will then head to Chowan County, where he will see the damage in Edenton.

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