‘We just started praying’: Man recounts moments tornado tore through Emerald Isle

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EMERALD ISLE, N.C. -- Some areas along the North Carolina coast are seeing damage from Hurricane Dorian even before the storm makes it's way up the coast. Officials say a waterspout came onto the ground in Emerald Isle. It destroyed dozens of homes in the area and left a trail of destruction.

“I was around, I was in my office at the Holiday Travel Park Resort. My daughter came in, then my grandson came in, and just yelled, ‘Tornado! Tornado! Tornado!’ We looked out the window, we saw the tornado coming,” Ronnie Watson said. He owns the RV park near the Boardwalk RV Park, which took one of the hardest hits.

Around 9 a.m. Thursday, it became a moment of panic for him.

“Oh just a funnel, just like a funnel. And then we just started to see debris fly everywhere. It was very scary,” he said.

Without a moment to spare, he and his family did the only thing they could do.

“We went and ran into one of our bathrooms there at the main building. We locked the door. And we just got down on the floor and we just started praying that it didn’t hit our building, which it didn’t thank the Lord,” he said.

The tornado left dozens of homes destroyed. All of the damage was confined to a few blocks. People streets over did not even know what happened until they saw it first hand.

“I didn’t hear anything or see anything, the black cloud or the train sound that most people talk about,” said Rick Walling said, who lives three blocks over.

Emerald Isle Public Information Officer Matt Zapp said some people were inside at the time.

"I was communicating with a couple that were in their trailer and they were preparing to leave. All of their effects and personal items were in their car and now their two trailers are sandwiched together and their car is in the middle,” he said.

He also said one of their first responders was outside at the time.

"We have a gentleman that’s part of our fire department that was accessing ice at the Twice the Ice station. He turned around and saw the water spout coming across behind him. He began to evacuate to his vehicle and as he took off the Twice the Ice station was destroyed behind him. So we’re fortunate that he’s OK today," Zapp said.

This happened near the Salty Pirate Water Park as well. The owner said the park has a significant amount of damage.

On Thursday afternoon it became a race to get as much debris and damage cleaned up as possible before the full force of Dorian reached the area.

Zapp said no injuries were reported.

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