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Officials confirm fatalities and injuries after tornado strikes coastal Brunswick County


Our original broadcast after the tornado touched down.
Listen to the story here.

Around midnight, severe weather, including at least one tornado, struck coastal Brunswick County in North Carolina. The damage near the South Carolina border was severe; tens of thousands lost power, and several lost their lives.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office confirms three people have been killed and ten injured by a tornado; rescue teams are also searching for missing people, but it's unknown how many. [Note: The National Weather Service has not officially confirmed 'tornadic' activity; NWS is sending a team later today to investigate and will issue an update if confirmed. That said, the extent of the damage has led local officials to refer to the storm as a tornado with some degree of confidence.]

Severe damage is being reported along the coastal region near the South Carolina border, including the towns of Carolina Shores, Sunset Beach, and Ocean Island Beach. Officials report at least 50 homes were damaged.

The most severe damage is being reported in the golf and beach community of Ocean Ridge Plantation. Photographs released by the Sheriff’s office show roads blocked by debris, badly damaged vehicles, and several houses reduced to rubble.

Several major roads have been closed due to debris and power lines, and officials are asking people to avoid the area. Power remains out for thousands of people; during the peak of the outage over 35,000 were without power. 

Emergency crews from around the county remain in the area and updates are expected later this morning. The Wilmington Fire Department's regional response team and urban search and rescue teams were dispatched at the request of North Carolina Emergency Management. According to WFD units headed to the Ocean Isle Beach area around 2 a.m. to search for missing residents; a WFD spokesperson said it is not yet clear how many people were unaccounted for.

 Brunswick County Schools has announced that -- due to extensive damage and power outages -- all schools will be closed to students and staff on Tuesday, and there will be no instruction.

An emergency shelter has been set up for those displaced by the storm; contact Brunswick County Emergency Management at 910-253-5383.