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Monday June 14th

What happened after Friday's tornado in Orange County?

<p>3209 Old Highway 86, Hillsborough NC lies damaged and abandoned after sustaining damage during the tornado Friday, April 19, 2019.</p>
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3209 Old Highway 86, Hillsborough NC lies damaged and abandoned after sustaining damage during the tornado Friday, April 19, 2019.

A tornado touched down in Hillsborough on Friday afternoon, one of a string of similar storms across the area.

The National Weather Service reported that a significant portion of the damage was concentrated near the intersection of Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40, about 10 miles south of Hillsborough.

“We've got a lot of cleanup to do and a lot of fencing to build, and it's coming right in the spring season where we have a lot of farming and tending the fields and whatnot,” said Roger Nutter, manager and co-founder of Maple View Farm Milk Company in Hillsborough.

Nutter said the tornado totally destroyed two barns, with one more in danger of falling. Additionally, one cow died, and uprooted trees toppled many of the farm’s fences, leaving pastures unusable and forcing Nutter to move 125 cows to other locations.

“(It was) scary to see all the devastation and what a tornado does,” Nutter said. “You've always seen it before, but it's always looking at somebody else's mess and it's just a lot different when it's your own.”

Still, Nutter expects the farm to be back in shape by this summer, and he said the farm is still able to produce and sell milk.

The Town of Hillsborough’s report immediately following the storm expressed similar findings — scattered debris, downed power lines and fallen trees, but “no major issues.”

For a weather event like Friday’s tornado, the damage was not as bad as it could have been, said Bill Gentry, UNC assistant professor of health policy and management and director of the Community Preparedness and Disaster Management Program.

“By Sunday, it was really a non-story, which from a disaster management perspective is great,” Gentry said. “There was no fingers pointed, there was no, ‘Why didn’t we do this?’ There was no loss of life.”

He attributed this success to forecasting work by the media and the expansion of early warning systems. Alert Carolina pushed out a tornado watch warning Friday morning, alternating from severe thunderstorm to tornado watch throughout the day. The National Weather Service and OC Alerts provide similar services, providing people with time to prepare for storms.

Precision also helps minimize impacts, Gentry said. When alerts are issued for large areas like whole counties, people will often take more risks than they do when weather organizations can provide specific tornado paths. 

“The event, in general, was really an excellent example of how weather warning and weather preparedness education, how that works, and how far we've come in the last five years,” Gentry said.

In order for people to protect themselves, Gentry said, they need to make sure to pay attention to early alerts from Alert Carolina or other services. He also stressed the need to have a device that can wake you up in the event of severe weather developments at night. 

“First and foremost is have a way to be warned,” Gentry said. “Information is golden, and again, there are so many ways.”


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