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Elm City cleans up tornado damage

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Danny Welch of Donnie's Tree Services works to remove a tree from a home Monday after a tornado uprooted it on West Nash Street in Elm City.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A twister touched down Monday in Elm City, nearly crushing at least one resident and causing parts of the Twin Counties to enter into a tornado warning, according to emergency officials.

The tornado was confirmed to hit Elm City, a small town about eight miles outside Rocky Mount, according to the National Weather Service in Raleigh. The tornado hit at 7:14 a.m., said Brent Fisher, assistant director of fire, rescue and emergency management for Nash County Emergency Services.

Susan Pittman received the tornado alert and rushed to a closet in her Elm City home. Seconds later, a huge pine tree toppled through the roof right into the spot where she had just been asleep. Due to the alert, no one was injured at the Pittman home.

When Tara Jones heard the tornado warning, she gathered her husband and their 10 children downstairs in their home.

“We took all of the children, and we put them in the hall,” Jones said. “We heard a big boom. It was like an explosion. The wind picked up real quick.”

A large pine tree fell into the center of Bud Pittman’s house on Barnes Street. He, his wife and his grandson were in the house when the twister came through as Pittman was getting dressed.

“My roof and all the ceiling and everything is crushed,” Pittman said. “I’ve got some major structural damage — but we’re safe, so the house is secondary.”

Jason Cain, assistant chief of the Toisnot Rural Fire Department, said between 30 and 50 houses had some degree of damage from falling trees and wind.

“When we came through town, there were several trees down on Barnes Street and Main Street, and when we got over here to Leo Drive and Nash Street, there were several trees down across the road and on houses,” Cain said.

Damage was contained to an area inside Elm City from Parker Street toward Nash Street and down toward Staton Lane, with many trees down on Anderson, Dixon, Barnes and Wilson streets and American Legion Lane. The twister temporarily knocked out electricity to parts of the town by ripping up power lines along U.S. 301.

A National Guard unit, already in the area because of Hurricane Florence, assisted local authorities with crowd control.

“It’s going to be a major cleanup,” Cain said. “Duke Energy is also here. They are assessing the damage to see if they can get power restored to the citizens of Elm City. We also have a shelter that has been set up at Elm City Middle School for anyone who needs shelter.”

Rodney Dancy, community preparedness coordinator for Wilson County Emergency Management, said damage from the tornado was confined mostly to the northwest side of the town.

"There were some power lines and downed trees that fell on some houses," Dancy said. "Duke (Energy) workers were there not long after it happened, working on restoring power. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries that took place from the tornado."

The warning for east central Nash, west central Edgecombe and north central Wilson counties lasted for 30 minutes, ending at 7:30 a.m.

A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the creation of a tornado. A tornado warning means a tornado is imminent or already occurring. If anyone receives notice of a tornado warning, they should seek shelter immediately.

Information from The Wilson Times is included in this report.

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