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Tornado strikes western N. Carolina

Davie Hinshaw/Charlotte Observer via Associated Press

Debris covered the ground yesterday Ellenboro, N.C., where at least 60 buildings were damaged when a storm the National Weather Service said contained a tornado struck.

ELLENBORO, N.C. - Weather officials confirm there was a tornado in the storm system that swept through parts of western North Carolina this week, flinging mobile homes into valleys, damaging dozens of buildings, and injuring nearly 20 people.

The storm system struck Rutherford and Burke counties on Wednesday, as a cold front moved through the western Carolinas. A National Weather Service survey team reported the system produced a tornado with winds of roughly 115 miles an hour.

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“The trailer started shaking and we were gone,’’ said Samantha Owens of Ellenboro. “It just picked and we just started rolling.’’

The mobile home where Owens lived with her mother and four children was thrown off its foundation, she said yesterday.

Her mother was taken to a hospital in Charlotte with a concussion, but Owens and her children escaped with minor scrapes and bruises.

“Not even a year ago, we had a house fire and we lost everything,’’ she said as she searched through the ruins of her home for items that hadn’t been destroyed. “We were trying to start over, and then this happened.’’

At least 10 people were injured in Rutherford County, and nearly the same number in Burke County, emergency officials said. There were no fatalities reported by yesterday afternoon.

“We are certainly thankful for that,’’ Burke County Manager Bryan Steen said.

At least two of the injuries in Rutherford County were serious, sheriff’s deputy Sergeant Dwayne Wright said, but officials did not know the extent of those injuries.

In Burke County, 16 homes were destroyed with another 50 suffering various amounts of damage, according to Fire Marshal Mark Pitts. About six businesses were also damaged.

At least five people were hurt when the storm struck a few minutes later in the Icard area in eastern Burke County, Dixon said.

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