16 injured as North Carolina experiences rare July EF-3 tornado

16 injured as North Carolina experiences rare July EF-3 tornado

A devastating EF-3 tornado ravaged central North Carolina, severely damaging a Pfizer plant and other structures, injuring 16 people, and halting traffic on a major interstate on July 19, 2023. This is the first event of its kind recorded in this region in the month of July.

North Carolina was left reeling when an EF-3 tornado, with peak wind speeds of 241 km/h (150 mph), wreaked havoc across Nash and Edgecombe counties, resulting in significant property damage and injuries on July 19, 2023. According to the National Weather Service, this tornado marks the first occurrence of an EF-3 tornado in central North Carolina during July.

With a maximum path width of approximately 550 m (600 yards), the tornado ripped through Dortches, Nash County, approximately 72.4 km (45 miles) northeast of Raleigh, and concluded its course of destruction 14 km (9 miles) east-northeast of Battleboro in Edgecombe County. The tornado lasted for about half an hour and traversed a distance of 26.6 km (16.5 miles) on the ground.

In Nash County alone, over a dozen people were treated for minor injuries, as reported by a county spokesperson. The neighboring Edgecombe County wasn’t spared either, with the sheriff’s office confirming three injuries – two of which were life-threatening.


Pfizer’s Rocky Mount facility was among the structures that bore the brunt of the tornado’s wrath, as the storm severely damaged the building, reducing parts of its roof to rubble. Yet, there were no reported injuries within the facility. A statement from Pfizer expressed concern for its colleagues, patients, and the community while promising to rebuild and assess the impact on production in the aftermath of this severe weather incident.

Pfizer’s North Carolina facility, as stated on the company’s website, is responsible for the production of approximately a quarter of all sterile injectables utilized in hospitals across the United States.

The damage inflicted by the tornado could potentially result in prolonged shortages of these crucial medical supplies. Erin Fox, a Senior Pharmacy Director at the University of Utah Health, communicated to The Associated Press that Pfizer might face substantial challenges in recovering from this setback. The company would need to strategize either transferring production to other facilities or undertake extensive reconstruction of the damaged plant, she explained.

Furthermore, residents of Nash County, Mike Poythress and Deborah Moore, experienced a terrifying ordeal when their home was wrenched from its foundation and thrown across their property. As their belongings were strewn across the vicinity, the couple found themselves roughly 27.4 m (30 yards) from their original location, with Moore suffering significant injuries. Despite the personal losses, Poythress expressed relief at their survival amidst the chaos.

The aftermath of the tornado saw Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone urging residents to avoid the roads due to fallen power lines, gas leaks, and significant damage throughout the area.

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1 North Carolina tornado that damaged Pfizer plant and shut down I-95 was an EF-3, NWS says – CNN – July 20, 2023

2 Large EF3 tornado causes injuries, damages Pfizer building in North Carolina – AccuWeather – July 19, 2023

Feature image credit: ABC11 (stillshot)


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