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BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Severe weather ripped through Bladen County Saturday, leaving trees down, buildings destroyed and some without their lives.

“It come and gone,” Bladenboro resident Jeff Atkinson said. “I would say just about 30 to 45 seconds. Just a quick gust of the wind and it was gone.”

Atkinson says a tree that has been in his front yard since before he was born 42 years ago is now gone.

“The tree just snapped and twisted and fell over,” Atkinson said. “At first, I thought it hit the building. When I came out, I noticed it fell in the front yard and some of it was in the highway. It was just real loud noises. I heard something. Very strong winds.”

Those strong winds continued to travel through Bladenboro, and just down the street, more damage was done. Phillip Little with Emergency Management says they are still trying to assess the extent of the damage.

“We’ve had at least one fatality that has been confirmed,” Little said. “Three people, one of them an emergency worker, have been transported to the hospital. In the Ammon area, there were two people transported to the hospital and two confirmed fatalities in that area.”

Little says many folks are without power and some homes in the area are not livable. Emergency Management expects those numbers to continue to rise in days to come. For now, they have a command center set up in the middle of Bladenboro to assist residents there and in Elizabethtown. They say a tornado ripped through the county, destroying homes and businesses in its path.

Elizabethtown Baptist Church is one building that was hit. Parts of the church were destroyed and almost every window was broken during the severe weather. Pastor Chris Carroll says although their building is in disarray, their spirits are not broken.

“30 seconds can change a lot,” Carroll said. “It was 30 seconds of damage that took place here. What is really fortunate is that we had several people that were on campus right before this happened but where able to get clear and find safety.”

Carroll says they will still have service tomorrow to celebrate that everyone in the congregation is safe.

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