Tornado downs trees, damages buildings in Sampson County

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Tornado aftermath in Sampson County
Tornado damages fire department in Sampson County

AUTRYVILLE, North Carolina (WTVD) -- The National Weather Service says a tornado that touched down in Sampson County Tuesday evening was an EF-1 with winds up to 110 mph.

The tornado knocked down trees, damaged buildings, and caused minor injuries.

MORE: Sampson County man captures cell phone video of tornado

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The mayor of Autryville declared a state of emergency Tuesday night. A curfew was also in place in the town of about 200 people.

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Tornado damage in Autryville
ABC11 Photojournalist Jeff Hinkle

The tornado tore a ragged path through the small Sampson County community, tearing the roof off the fire station and damaging all but one firetruck. Still, the chief said they were lucky.

"No one was hurt. Very, very lucky," said Fire Chief Andrew Hawkins. "Right now, we're just thankful I have a department."

The fire department in Autryville sustained heavy damage.

The neighborhood around the fire department looked like a war zone. Trees were uprooted, or snapped off. Several homes were missing shingles or roofs.

Residents say they heard the distinctive sound of a tornado as the winds tore through a small mobile-home park, splintering one mobile home and damaging others.

"Well, honestly, it sounded like a freight train," said resident Don Grafmick. "Hit without warning. All I saw was leaves just sitting there spinning up in the air. Happened to turn to this trailer, and it just went, it went everywhere."

The Red Cross was on the scene in Autryville to help those who were affected by the tornado.

Those in need of assistance as a result of the storm are asked to call the Red Cross in Fayetteville at (910) 867-8151.

MORE: What to do after a tornado

The National Weather Service said that at 5:13 p.m., a confirmed tornado was located near Clinton, moving east at 20 mph.


  • We started getting reports from Autryville of tornado damage
  • NWS issued the first tornado warning at 4:57 for Sampson County
  • Reports of damage to fire station in Autryville
  • 5:34 p.m. damage reports in the Bearskin community of Salemburg. Mobile home overturned and minor injuries reported
  • Tornado reported on the ground near Clinton by police officer
  • Warning expired at 6 p.m.

The severe threat wasn't super high, but south Sampson and Cumberland counties were under a marginal risk for severe storms.

Viewers reported high winds and trees down in Sampson County, including along Highway 24.

Damage was also reported to mobile homes in Salemburg.