Deadly Brunswick County tornado intensified quickly, offering little warning for sleeping families

North Carolina news

SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WNCN) — Families had little time to get to safety during a deadly tornado late Monday night in southern Brunswick County.

Officials say there was minimal warning because the tornado developed so quickly, and many families were asleep when it touched down.

Michael Williams lives on Old Shallotte Road, and said he woke his wife up at the storm intensified.

“She immediately ran to my son’s room and they got in the tub and covered over. I was making my way to the other restroom and the top window busted. All the windows shattered,” said Williams.  “Shards of glass traveled to the opposite side of the room.  They stuck in the wall.”

Williams’ home was damaged, but his garage that held a kitchen and game room was destroyed.

“It can be replaced.  Lives can’t,” he said.

A few houses away on Old Shallotte Road, Luis Lujano said the sound of snapping trees and wind woke him up.

“You see a big gust of wind dragging huge branches. Seconds after that happened, I got a warning on my phone,” he said.

He said his family only had moments to take shelter in the bathroom before a tree limb went through their living room.

Ed Conrow, director of Emergency Management for Brunswick County, said there was minimal warning because by the time the National Weather Service broadcast an alert, the tornado was already on the ground causing damage.

 Conrow said the National Weather Service was very surprised how rapidly the storm intensified.

“We didn’t have that much warning, and at the time of night where most people were in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation,” said Conrow.

Three people were killed, and 10 others hurt when the storm tore through the Ocean Ridge Plantation.

“I have seen devastation that I have not seen in many years.  It truly, truly was a disaster last night,” said Randy Thompson, Chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department kept the neighborhood closed to anyone but residents Tuesday due to downed power lines and debris making conditions dangerous.

The National Weather Service says the tornado touched down at 11:39 p.m. on Seaside Road, which is N.C. 904. 

Several businesses there had roofs torn off, and motor homes were flipped over.

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