North Carolina tornado that damaged Pfizer plant and shut down I-95 was at least an EF-2, NWS says

A tornado in North Carolina severely damaged a Pfizer plant, damaged several other structures, shut down a major interstate and injured at least four people.

The tornado was at least an EF-2 with winds of up to 135 mph, the National Weather Service said, as it tore a path of damage through Nash County, around 45 miles northeast of Raleigh, on Wednesday afternoon. It initially touched down west of Dortches before crossing Interstate 95 into an area north of Rocky Mount.

Some structures in the tornado’s path were completely flattened. Pfizer’s Rocky Mount facility suffered severe damage from the tornado – video from helicopters showed the roof crumpled like paper and building debris scattered into the surrounding parking lot. There were no reports of injuries at the plant, according to a statement from the company.

“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,” the statement said.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone urged people to stay off roads because of downed power lines, a gas leak and other severe damage across the area.

The tornado toppled trees onto Interstate 95, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said, shutting the highway down in both directions for at least an hour before later reopening.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper acknowledged the damage on Twitter and said that first responders were on scene helping clear roads and provide other aid.

An initial survey by the National Weather Service found the EF-2 damage in Dortches late Wednesday afternoon. Teams are still surveying the area and could update the tornado’s final strength depending on the severity of the damage they find.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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