BRUNSWICK COUNTY – For neighbors of Ocean Ridge Plantation and the surrounding areas, the events of late Monday night are just now beginning to sink in. At least 60 properties were damaged in the EF3 storm that struck southern Brunswick County on Monday right after 11:30 p.m.
According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds clocked in at 165 mph, as several homes were completely demolished with all four walls ripped away. At one house, all debris was cleared, with only the foundation spared.
Spawned from Winter Storm Uri, the tornado initially landed around Kingsmill Court in the Sea Trail Golf Resort near Sunset Beach, with up to 80 mph winds. It tore through numerous trees.
The vortex intensified as it traveled northeast. It cut across a swampland north of Old Georgetown Road as gusts built up to 115 mph. The twister annihilated a large metal building, according to the weather service, and capsized multiple RVs once it got to Seaside Road.
At that point, it persisted northeastward, crossing Saw Pit Swamp and infiltrating Ocean Ridge Plantation. It wreaked havoc on Cambria Court and Windsor Circle, among other streets. The tornado’s power then peaked and managed to destroy brick homes, according to the national weather service.
The storm advanced toward Highway 17 and swept through the main entrance of Ocean Ridge Plantation. It rolled over and battered a double-wide mobile home on the north side of the roadway. Wind speeds were estimated to be 110 mph by that point.
Hundreds of trees were toppled along the tornado’s path, which stretched northeastward through woodlands to Green Bay Road, storm survey crews noted. There was “unusual damage” to leaning, large metal power poles that, according to the weather service, could only have been the fault of winds up to 115 mph.
The disaster marks the deadliest tornado in southeastern North Carolina since the Riegelwood tornado of November 2006, which killed eight people in Columbus County.
The damage left in its wake will require “long-term recovery,” the county director of emergency services said during a press conference Tuesday. Search and rescue efforts have wrapped, and officials are now assessing the damage and assisting with recovery efforts.
On Wednesday Brunswick County chair Randy Thompson declared a state of emergency in response to the tornado. Workers were busy throughout the plantation, hammering on roofs and hauling debris.
Gov. Roy Cooper toured the site and news reporters were allowed in the subdivision on Wednesday to document the damages in daylight for the first time. Port City Daily will fully report on the governor’s visit at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.
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Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees.
Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alexsands_