WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Newly released 911 calls from the night a tornado carved a destructive 22-mile path through Brunswick and Columbus counties provide more perspective on the scary and confusing aftermath of the quick yet powerful storm.
The EF-3 tornado with winds near 160 mph killed three people, injured 10, and damaged or destroyed nearly 60 homes in Brunswick County on Feb. 15.
Even in the minutes after the storm, the callers knew it was a tornado that hit late that night.
In some, the callers could not tell the extent of the damage to their homes or even how badly they were hurt because the power was out.
One woman told the 911 operator, “We just had a tornado. A tornado just hit our house.”
The 911 operator asked, “How do you know it was a tornado?”
“Our house is destroyed,” the woman responded.
Some of the callers sounded frantic while others calmly provided information to dispatchers.
One man, who told the operator he and his wife were in their 80s, described cuts all over their feet.
“I’ve got glass all over the place,” he said. “We’re bleeding.”
When the 911 operator asked if he was injured, he responded, “There’s blood all over. I don’t know where we’re hurt, ma’am; there’s no light or anything.”
The power outage added to the confusion.
Another man called from outside his home.
“We are not injured as far as we know,” he told the dispatcher. “We’re in the dark here. Nobody seems to be injured but we’re in bare feet and we can’t see anything.”
All of the callers were met with a reassuring voice on the other end of the line who told them help was on the way.
In all, 20 people called 911 in the minutes after the tornado.
The Red Cross helped 13 families in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Friday, the agency said it is still assisting nine families, comprising 45 people, who still cannot live in their homes or who have homes that were destroyed in the storm.
This week, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a state of emergency declaration for the area.
Cooper previously toured the damage in the Ocean Ridge community near Ocean Isle Beach where the tornado hit.
Copyright 2021 WECT. All rights reserved.