A tornado heavily damaged a large Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in North Carolina on Wednesday, the latest in a string of extreme weather events plaguing the U.S. on a day when floods deluged communities in Kentucky and scorching heat smothered Phoenix and Miami.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed that a large complex was damaged by a twister that tore through the Rocky Mount area, but said in an email that it had no reports of serious injuries at the facility.
The Pfizer plant stores large quantities of medicine that were tossed about by the storm, Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said, adding, “I’ve got reports of 50,000 pallets of medicine that are strewn across the facility and damaged through the rain and the wind.”
Miami has endured a heat index of at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more for weeks, with temperatures expected to rise this weekend.
In Kentucky, meteorologists warned of a “life-threatening situation” in the communities of Mayfield and Wingo, inundated by flash flooding from waves of thunderstorms. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency Wednesday to help stricken communities as more storms threatened.
The National Weather Service also issued flash flood watches and warnings in parts of states near Kentucky. Forecasters expect up to 10 inches of rain could fall on Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri in an area where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers converge.
Phoenix, a desert city of more than 1.6 million people, had set a separate record Tuesday among U.S. cities by marking 19 straight days of temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
No other major city –- defined as the 25 most populous in the U.S. -– has had any stretch of 110-degree days or 90-degree nights longer than Phoenix, said weather historian Christopher Burt of the Weather Company.
On Tuesday, Phoenix had reached 117 degrees by 3 p.m. Many residents were confined indoors, turning the usually vibrant metropolis into a ghost town.
The region has also seen 38 consecutive days with a heat index threshold of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“And in addition to that we have very warm sea surface temperatures that are five to seven degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal … there really is no immediate relief in sight,” Pine said.
Human-caused climate change and a newly formed El Nino are combining to shatter heat records worldwide, scientists say.
And in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, searchers are still seeking two young siblings visiting from South Carolina who became trapped in what one fire chief called “a wall of water” that hit their family and killed their mother Saturday. Four others also died in those flash floods.