11/16/06 — Storms rock region

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Storms rock region

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 16, 2006 1:45 PM

A tornado that began in Columbus County this morning seems to have come through Wayne and Duplin counties without any significant damage.

First reported in Columbus at about 6:30 a.m. by a state Highway Patrol officer, the storm cell moved north through Pender County and into Duplin and Wayne at about 8 a.m. -- just as it was intensifiying in strength.

"The circulation definitely tightened up and really intensified in Duplin and Wayne," said meteorlogist Jeff Orrock with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

It was at its strongest as it crossed the county line between Mount Olive and Seven Springs, and conditions were close to perfect for a tornado to form, but there are no confirmed reports of a touchdown.

"Looking at it (on radar) sitting here, it was really a scary situation," Orrock continued. "If it really didn't do any more damage than it did, we're going to be very fortunate, at least in Wayne (and Duplin) counties."

But in Wayne and Duplin, the damage seems to be limited to a few traffic accidents and a scattering of trees and power lines down.

"I just got off the phone with the 911 center and they've had no reported calls that had anything to do with storm damage or fatalities," Duplin County Emergency Services director Craig Forlines said.

In Wayne County, only one injury was reported.

"We transported a child who had been cut by a piece of glass (to Wayne Memorial Hospital)," Wayne County Emergency Services director Joe Gurley said.

Ken Derksen, public relations officer for Wayne County Public Schools, confirmed that a Dillard Middle School student was injured while attempting to close a window and pressure from the storm caused it to shatter.

The schools did implement their tornado drills once the tornado warning was announced, but the timing of the storm made it a challenge, Derksen continued.

"Students were just coming to school when it struck," he said.

"With the fact that school was just starting it made it a little more unusual than it might have been if school had already started," said Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations with the school system.

The Spring Creek area was one that was expected to be affected, so Mrs. Pierce went to visit those schools.

"The warning came in for this area right as students were arriving for school so they brought all the students in from the mobile units to the main building and the gym," she said. "They were immediately assigned to a safe area."

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said schools with mobile units caused the most concern.

From the time the reports began, he said he was in constant contact with maintenance and transportation staffs. No damage was reported.

"We had a meeting early this morning and have stayed ready in case," he said.

The school system was placed on standby and went into tornado drill at all the schools, Hill said.

"(The storm) passed us at about 8:15. We waited until 8:25 and gave the OK to go back into the classrooms," he said.

The standby was lifted but officials will continue to monitor the situation throughout the day.

Duplin County Schools also experienced minimal problems.

"We did put our kids in the tornado mode and went through a tornado drill and kept them out of the mobile units. We'll keep them in the main buildings until the warning and watch are over." Everything went very smoothly. Everybody followed the plan," Duplin associate school superintendent Randall Shaver said.

Wayne and Duplin counties are under a tornado watch until about 3 p.m. as at least two more lines of storms are expected to pass over.