NASH COUNTY, N.C. — An EF-3 tornado tore through a farming community north of Rocky Mount Wednesday that ripped through a playground at a daycare as workers ensured infants were safe, taking shelter from the storm.
The storm that packed winds of up to 150 mph destroyed homes and damaged a large facility in Rocky Mount owned by a major pharmaceutical company.
St. Stephen’s Loving Daycare workers had seconds to move the infants away from the windows before the storm hit, which cut a path through the playground and damaged a nearby home.
“We had a miracle,” said Carolyn Slade, daycare administrator “The storm came through, uprooted the shingles and went out through here and landed past the building, and destroyed our playground.”
None of the children were hurt.
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The tornado made an eight-mile path through the rural community and soon after that, cleanup and help were underway.
By lunchtime Thursday, Channel 9′s Dave Faherty spotted Lowe’s and other companies bringing donations and volunteering to help with the cleanup.
More than a mile away, the winds ripped apart a storage area at a watermelon farm.
Carlton Tucker saw it happen from his home across the street.
“It was exciting and scary at the same time,” Tucker said. “I saw it pick up a trailer and when the trailer fell down, it blew up.”
Tony Cooper lives across from one of the dozens of homes damaged. Trees fell on one of the homes and also destroyed the car parked in the back.
“I know the guy across the street,” Cooper said. “I don’t know how he got out of there alive. Trees just fell all over his house.”
Terria Battle’s brothers worked to clear a tree from their father’s home down the street. His work shed was leveled by the tornado. Battle said she was thankful no one was hurt and for all the people who’ve stopped to help. Some of them have been strangers.
“God bless them,” Battle said. “We thank them. We need many more like them today.”
First responders said 16 people were injured in the storm, two of them seriously.
Some of the worst damage was at the Pfizer plant in Rocky Mount.
Supply chain experts fear the damage could worsen drug shortages.
The Rocky Mount facility supplies more than a quarter of all sterile injectable medicines in U.S. hospitals, such as anesthesia and anti-infectives.
Pfizer officials said it’s still assessing the damage and should have more information in a few days.
Workers at the site were able to evacuate and are safe and accounted for.
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