Raleigh, North Carolina –
On Wednesday, a tornado devastated a major Pfizer pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in North Carolina, while torrential rains flooded areas in Kentucky and added heat to areas from California to South Florida.
Pfizer confirmed in an email that its large manufacturing facility was damaged by a Twister that fell near Rocky Mount just after noon, but said there were no reports of serious injuries. A company statement later said that all employees had been safely evacuated and had recovered safely.
Part of the roof of a huge building was torn off. Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said the Pfizer factory contained a large amount of pharmaceuticals that were spilled.
“We have received reports of 50,000 pallets of medical supplies scattered throughout the facility and damaged by the elements,” Stone said.
Pfizer said on its website that the plant produces nearly 25% of all sterile injectable drugs used in U.S. hospitals, along with anesthetics and other drugs. Erin Fox, senior director of pharmacy at Utah Health University, said the damage “will likely lead to long-term shortages while Pfizer moves production elsewhere or works to rebuild.”
The National Weather Service said in a tweet that the damage was consistent with an EF3 tornado with winds up to 150 mph (240 km/h).
The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, which is part of Rocky Mount, said on Facebook that three people were reportedly injured in the tornado, two of them with life-threatening injuries.
Preliminary reports from neighboring Nash County said 13 people were injured and 89 structures were damaged, WRAL-TV reported.
Three homes owned by Brian Burnell and his family near Dorches were damaged. He told the press he was grateful that everyone was alive. His sister and children hid in the laundry room at home.
“They got where they needed to be in the house and everything went for the best,” Burnell said near the house, which lost a large portion of its exterior walls and roof.
Elsewhere in the United States, heatwaves and flooding continued to rise, with Phoenix setting record-high temperatures and Kentucky rescuers pulling people out of rain-soaked homes and vehicles.
Meteorologists said little recovery was seen from the heat and storms. Miami, for example, has endured a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) for several weeks, and temperatures are expected to rise this weekend.
In Kentucky, meteorologists have warned of “life-threatening conditions” in the Mayfield and Wingo areas, which were flooded by flash floods from thunderstorms this week. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in the state on Wednesday as more storms threatened.
Weather forecasters expect up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain to continue in parts of Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. .
The storm system is expected to move Thursday and Friday over New England, where the ground remains saturated after recent flooding. In Connecticut, a mother and her 5-year-old daughter died Tuesday after being swept away by a swollen river. Searches continued in southeastern Pennsylvania for two children caught in a flash flood Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Phoenix set a new warmest minimum temperature record of 97 degrees Celsius (36.1 degrees Celsius) on Wednesday morning, raising the threat of heatstroke for residents unable to cool off enough overnight. The previous record was 96°F (35.6°C) in 2003, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Lindsay Lamont, who works at Sweet Republic Phoenix, an ice cream shop, said business during the day was slowing as people took shelter indoors to escape the heat. “But as the evenings start to get cooler, more people are definitely coming to buy ice cream,” says Lamont.
The number of heat-related deaths continues to rise in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located. Public health officials reported Wednesday that six more heat-related deaths were confirmed last week, bringing the total to 18 so far this year. Some deaths may have occurred weeks earlier, so they weren’t necessarily dead last week, but only after doing a thorough investigation that was confirmed to be heat-related.
By this time last year, there were 29 confirmed heat-related deaths in the county, with 193 more under investigation.
The desert city of Phoenix, with a population of more than 1.6 million, set another record for any U.S. city on Tuesday, recording temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) for 19 straight days. It crossed 110 again on Wednesday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Hirsch said Wednesday’s high of 119 degrees Celsius (48.3 degrees Celsius) in Phoenix tied the city’s fourth-highest-ever record. The highest temperature ever recorded was 122°F (50°C) in 1990.
Miami recorded a heat index above 105°F (40.6°C) for 16 consecutive days across the United States. The previous record was five days in June 2019.
“Temperatures are only going to get warmer later in the week and into the weekend,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Cameron Pine.
The region also reported 100°F (37.8°C) baseline heat index for the 38th straight day, with sea surface temperatures several degrees above normal.
“There’s really no immediate prospect of a bailout,” Pine said.
A 71-year-old man from the Los Angeles area died on Tuesday afternoon at a trailhead in Eastern California’s Death Valley National Park as temperatures hit over 121°F (49.4°C) and rangers suspected the heat was to blame. The National Park Service announced that he died. Wednesday statement.
This is probably the second heat-related fatality in Death Valley this summer. On July 3, a 65-year-old man was found dead in his car.
Scientists say a combination of man-made climate change and a new El Niño phenomenon are breaking heat records around the world.
June and July were the hottest months on record across the globe. Almost every day this month, the average global temperature has been warmer than the unofficial hottest day on record before 2023, according to the University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer.
Atmospheric scientists say global warming, which is responsible for the relentless heat in the Southwest, is also making extreme rainfall more frequent.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Associated Press reporter Anita Snow of Phoenix, Frida Frisaro of Miami, Jonel Alecia of Temecula, Calif., and Rebecca Reynolds of Louisville, Kentucky contributed to this article.