A Pfizer factory in North Carolina was destroyed by a tornado on Wednesday, with rain scattering 50,000 pallets of medicine across the site and roofs collapsing and twisting in 150 mph winds.
Officials in two counties said 16 people were injured – including two with life-threatening wounds – and 89 buildings were damaged as the storm swept through North Carolina.
The tornado originated near Nashville, North Carolina around 12:35 p.m. and moved northeast through the Rocky Mountains, about 60 miles east of Raleigh, where it destroyed the Pfizer facility.
It ran out of steam 40 miles from Scotland Neck.
No serious injuries were reported, but homes lost their roofs and downed power lines in Nash County, North Carolina.
Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said the warehouse bore the brunt of the damage, adding: ‘I’ve received reports of 50,000 pallets of medicine that were scattered throughout the facility and damaged by rain and wind.’
A Pfizer facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina was devastated by a tornado on Wednesday
The National Weather Service described the tornado as an EF-3. Photo: Locals photograph the storm as they approach Rocky Mount, North Carolina
A Pfizer employee told ABC 11 that they all rushed to the safety zone when they heard about the impending storm.
He said lights flashed inside the facility, and then a sound ‘like a bomb went off.’
The noise lasted only one minute or 90 seconds.
Pfizer said the 250-acre site with 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space is ‘one of the largest sterile injectable facilities in the world’.
About 25 percent of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals are produced on site, and 400 million units leave the site annually.
It manufactures vials, syringes, IV bags and bottles of anesthesia, analgesia, therapeutics, anti-infectives and neuromuscular blockers.
“We are evaluating the situation to determine the impact on production,” the company said.
‘Our thoughts are with our colleagues, our patients and the community as we rebuild from this weather event.’
No one was injured in the tornado, shouting over the air as workers rushed to shelters
Aerial photos give an idea of the extent of the damage, showing cars parked in front of the site
The tornado caused downed trees and road closures
The National Weather Service described the tornado as an EF-3, according to WITN. Damage assessments are ongoing throughout Nash County.
The EF (Enhanced Fujita) scale is a way to measure tornadoes based on wind speed. An EF-3 has wind speeds of 165 mph. The scale goes up to EF-5. The tornado that leveled Joplin, Missouri, was classified as an EF-5 storm.
Videos posted on social media and shared by locals showed debris churning and kicking in the Nash County, North Carolina, area.
‘I never want to see another one like this again, because it was blacked out from the sunlight and this storm probably lasted less than a minute – and you can see what happened,’ Dortches Mayor Jackie Vick told WITN. Vic told WITN. ‘It’s devastating, but the bottom line is as far as we’ve heard, there’s been no casualties, some bumps and scrapes and that sort of thing, but no casualties, so the rest we can deal with. .’
The storm closed roads along I-95 in North Carolina as trees fell during the tornado.
According to WRAL, 13 people were injured and 89 structures were damaged by the storm in Nash County.
‘We would like to thank our municipality, Nash County Volunteer Fire Department, surrounding counties, North Carolina Highway Patrol, NCDOT and North Carolina Emergency Management for their assistance during the emergency response,’ said Emergency Services Director Tony Cameron. ‘It takes a big team to recover from such an event. We are fortunate that despite the damage we are seeing, the number of people injured is very few.’
In Edgecombe County, three people were injured, including two seriously.