Storm damage at Elise Middle School

Storms toppled a tree and damaged the sign in front of Elise Middle School on Friday. (Photograph courtesy Town of Robbins)

A tornado made landfall during a spate of storms Friday in Robbins, a town that has become something of a magnet for severe weather in recent months.

The tornado touched down about 3:27 p.m. on Jasper Road, damaging vehicles and mobile homes. The storms caused flooding on local thoroughfares and left more than 800 residents without electricity for hours.

On Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for Moore and 19 other counties. The agency warned of a “line of intense storms” approaching the Sandhills.

While some storm-related damage was reported in southern Moore County, Robbins bore the brunt of the impact. No serious injuries were reported.

Fast-moving winds toppled utility poles and trees near Elise Middle School. Flooding prevented travel on Plank Road and the intersection of Middleton Street and North Moore Road.

Randolph Electric Membership Corp. reported that 814 customers in the town, which has a population of about 1,100, and in surrounding communities lost power because of the storms. Some residents experienced water-pressure issues.

It was the latest example of extreme weather taking a disproportionately large toll on Robbins, one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the county.

“It’s been nuts,” David Lambert, the town manager, said of the weather problems. “Basically, the town is in a constant state of emergency response.”

When Winter Storm Diego swept through central North Carolina in December, the town received two inches of snow while most of the county saw only sleet and freezing rain.

In September, Hurricane Florence left Robbins with $2.5 million worth of broken infrastructure. The town was recently approved for a no-interest loan to repair its wastewater pump station and other assets that were damaged by the deluge.

The $1.6 million loan is being provided through the state Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The money will be used to pay for repairs and other expenses that are reimbursable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Robbins was also awarded a $500,000 stimulus grant from the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Meant to ease some of the financial strain caused by the hurricane, the grant can be put toward expenses that are not eligible for reimbursement through FEMA.

In March, the Robbins Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution authorizing Lambert to spend the money on equipment that will make the town more prepared to deal with future disasters.

“We’ve had tragedy after tragedy,” Lambert said. “But we’re still here and we’re fighting and we’re determined.”

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