Video: N.C. residents lashed by wicked weather staff and news service reports
updated 1/12/2012 3:48:02 PM ET 2012-01-12T20:48:02

At least 15 people were injured, nine homes destroyed and another 47 damaged when a tornado struck two counties in western North Carolina, officials said Thursday.

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The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado with winds around 115 mph hit Rutherford and Burke counties late Wednesday afternoon as a cold front moved through the western Carolinas.

Ten people were hurt in Ellenboro in Rutherford County, sheriff's Sgt. Dwayne Wright said. Two of the injuries were serious, but Wright did not know the extent of the injuries.

A woman in Ellenboro told NBC affiliate WCNC-TV that a neighbor's roof ended up in her front yard.

"It felt like the whole house was shaking, and all at once you could hear stuff just breaking apart and tearing up. It was frightening," said Mary Jane Hollifield.

STORY: First winter blast hits Midwest, Northeast

Some people initially were trapped in their homes.

"Everybody's out that we know of," Wright said. "As far as we know, everybody has been accounted for."

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

Image: Trash from damaged home
Jason Miczek  /  Reuters
People clean up a home damaged overnight in Ellenboro, N.C.

Wind also struck a marina in Caldwell County late Wednesday, damaging at least three boats. It was not clear if a tornado had hit the area. No injuries had been reported.

The storm cell that caused the damage had dumped some hail in northwestern South Carolina before moving into North Carolina.

Most tornadoes take place in the spring, but National Weather Service hydrologist Pat Tanner said a mid-winter tornado would not be unusual since temperatures in the region have been about 10 degrees above normal for the past month or so.

The Midwest and Northeast, meanwhile, are seeing their first winter blast of the season, with several inches of snow expected across the regions.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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