By WECT Staff | February 17, 2021 at 11:23 AM EST – Updated February 17 at 6:17 PM
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper got an up-close look at the damage caused by a deadly tornado that hit Brunswick County late Monday night.
The majority of the damage was confined to the Ocean Ridge Plantation community, where three people died, ten were injured and dozens of homes were either damaged or destroyed.
“I know that this is a difficult time for everybody because of this pandemic and then to have a storm of this magnitude on top of that just adds extra burdens to communities,” Cooper said during a media briefing. “But what we’ve seen here already are people of faith, people who understand the importance of being good neighbors, and it’s been amazing to see people pull together.
“Our prayers do go to the families that lost loved ones. That’s a devastating situation, I know.”
Preliminary data from the National Weather Service indicates the tornado was a “high-end” EF-3 with estimated wind speeds of 160 miles per hour, making it one of the strongest tornadoes to ever hit southeastern North Carolina.
The storm cell that spawned the monster tornado rapidly intensified, leaving forecasters with precious little time to warn residents until the storm was right on top of the community.
“The event was really nothing and this storm…no warnings or watches…in a matter of four minutes went from nothing to rapidly intensifying to a tornado,” said Ed Conrow, the director of emergency services for Brunswick County, during Wednesday afternoon’s media briefing. “They did their best to get the warning out. It was just a freak storm that developed so fast we had no chance to respond.”
Cooper was also asked whether his office is aware of the situation with the KTLX doppler radar in nearby Shallotte possibly affecting the response time of the National Weather Service in issuing severe weather warnings.
“Our team at state emergency management is engaged with both the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and we will certainly go back and look at that with our team specifically to see if there are any issues or concerns,” said Will Ray, chief of staff for N.C. Emergency Management.
“I know there are continued efforts to improve the warning systems for weather-related threats,” Cooper said. “Tornadoes are probably the hardest to predict and to know where they are, particularly one like this in the middle of the night when most people have gone to bed.
“So what I think needs to happen is people need to look what happened here and learn from it and see if systems can be improved.”
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