A major manufacturing complex owned by Pfizer in North Carolina sustained significant damage as a robust tornado wreaked havoc in the area on Wednesday. The incident threatened to halt the production of significant amounts of medication that are supplied to hospitals across the U.S. by this plant. In a company statement, Pfizer announced that the employees were promptly evacuated and were all safe.
The tornado touched down near Rocky Mount just after noon, causing considerable damage to the extensive Pfizer pharmaceutical plant. In an email, Pfizer confirmed the occurrence but reassured that no serious injuries had been reported.
However, the disaster left a considerable amount of the stored medicines scattered and damaged, as relayed by Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone. He added, “I’ve got reports of 50,000 pallets of medicine that are strewn across the facility and damaged through the rain and the wind.”
The Pfizer plant, a complex composed of several vast buildings, saw parts of its roofs torn off due to the tornado’s destructive force. The complex contributes to the production of nearly 25% of all sterile injectable medications used in U.S. hospitals, as well as anesthesia and other drugs.
We can confirm that the Pfizer Rocky Mount facility was damaged by the tornado. Pfizer colleagues at the site followed our established safety protocol and were able to evacuate. They are safe and accounted for.
— Pfizer Inc. (@pfizer) July 19, 2024
The extensive damage, said Erin Fox, senior pharmacy director at University of Utah Health, “will likely lead to long-term shortages while Pfizer works to either move production to other sites or rebuilds.”
The National Weather Service affirmed via a tweet that the damage in North Carolina was typical of an EF3 tornado, with winds gusting up to 150 mph. The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, partially responsible for Rocky Mount, stated on Facebook that they had received reports of three injuries, two of which were life-threatening.
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 21, 2024
Meanwhile, extreme weather conditions continued elsewhere in the United States. Phoenix broke its all-time temperature record, while flash floods in Kentucky trapped residents in their homes and vehicles. Additionally, the prolonged heatwave across Miami and southern Florida showed no signs of relenting, hitting record-high temperatures consistently.
In Kentucky, a state of emergency was declared due to thunderstorm-induced flash floods, with warnings of a “life-threatening situation” in communities like Mayfield and Wingo.Across the country, soaring temperatures have resulted in increasing heat-associated deaths, particularly in Maricopa County, which houses Phoenix. Last week alone, six more heat-related fatalities were confirmed, bringing this year’s tally to 18.
Meteorologists warned that the severe heat in Phoenix and Miami will continue for the foreseeable future, along with the storm systems in New England. Unrelenting storms have saturated the ground, leading to recent flood events.
Flash flooding in southeastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut led to several tragic incidents, including the loss of a mother and her five-year-old daughter who were swept away by a swollen river.
Climatologists argue that these patterns of extreme weather are not coincidental. Human-caused climate change, combined with a newly formed El Nino, is causing heat records worldwide to shatter.
The global average temperature has been higher almost every day this month than any day recorded prior to 2024, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.