OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WNCN) – At least three people are dead and 10 injured following a tornado that touched down in Brunswick County near Ocean Isle Beach around midnight, county authorities said Tuesday morning.
Power lines are down and many homes are damaged, especially in the Ocean Ridge Plantation area, after a tornado hit the south end of Brunswick County overnight, according to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
All three residents who were killed were from the Ocean Ridge Plantation area, according to Ed Conrow, director of Emergency Management for Brunswick County.
No one has been reported missing following the tornado.
Brunswick County Emergency Services, including multiple fire and law enforcement agencies, are on scene assessing damages and working to clear debris from roads, authorities said.
At noon, the effort turned from a search and rescue to recovery, Conrow said.
Around 37,000 customers lost power over night in the area as nine power structures were destroyed as well several lines were torn down, according to Josh Winslow, CEO of Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation
At noon, Winslow said 3,000 remained without power.
Victims can go to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, located at 5869 Ocean Highway West in Ocean Isle.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the tornado that hit the south end of Brunswick County early this morning,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.
Officials called the damage to homes in the Ocean Ridge Plantation area “devastating.”
“It’s something like I have never seen before. A lot of destruction. It’s going to be a long recovery process,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said at a press conference early Tuesday.
Brunswick County Emergency Management Director Ed Conrow said at a Tuesday morning press conference that they can confirm at least three people were killed and 10 were injured. That count is not final because people are trapped inside their homes.
“We have a long road ahead of us,” Conrow said on the phone with CBS 17 Tuesday morning. He said debris is “everywhere” and they are working “to get more boots on the ground” to search for missing people in daylight.
Conrow told CBS 17 that because the tornado developed so quickly, people got the warning and right after it touched down. He said many people were in bed and didn’t have a chance to take cover, calling the tornado a “very scary situation.”
According to the Wilmington Fire Department, both the Regional Response Team and Search and Rescue Team have been requested and deployed by State Emergency Management to respond to the area to assist with locating missing persons.
Conrow said because of the challenges of the search that the county had to bring in a “specialized search and rescue team” so they could “look through the collapsed homes and the debris.” Conrow also said it’s especially important to have properly trained teams because so many of the homes there are now “unstable.”
Conrow said that temporary shelters have been set up and county officials “expect when daylight comes up, we’ll have people from the area move from their homes and move them.”
In addition to the serious damage caused by the tornado, there are still power outages to deal with in parts of the county.
As of 8 a.m., around 3,100 customers in Brunswick County were without power, down from a peak of 35,000 customers earlier in the morning, Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation COO and spokesperson Corey Thurlow told CBS 17.
Thurlow said that BEMC crews are following behind county officials to assess the damage in the area and there is currently no estimate on when power will be restored for all customers as they can only fix the lines when it is safe to do so. The hope is that power will be fully restored by Wednesday.
Thurlow also told CBS 17 that power transmission lines built to withstand major winds came down during the tornado and that the storm caused extensive damage to the lines.
Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted Tuesday morning and said that the state has sent help to the area.
You can watch Brunswick County’s 4:30 a.m. press conference below.
Note: the audio is difficult to hear due to “the sound of the generator and wind,” the sheriff’s office said.
Officials held another press conference at noon to provide an update on the latest situation on the ground.
Stay with CBS 17 for more information as it becomes available.