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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke July 20, 2023

Claim tornado planned for Pfizer insurance money unfounded

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  • There’s no evidence to support this claim.

A tornado damaged a Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on July 19, leading to some virtual cheers from vaccine skeptics and unfounded conspiracy theories from social media users. 

A July 19 Instagram post suggests that the tornado was planned to give the pharmaceutical company a big payout. After suggesting the tornado could have been orchestrated via weather manipulation, the post asks: "Is this just an insurance claim for big pharma?"

It was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

There’s no credible evidence to support the claim that the tornado was human-made so that Pfizer could get insurance money. 

Tornadoes come from the energy released during a thunderstorm, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but scientists don’t completely understand how they form. 

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The lab says no one has ever tried to disrupt a tornado "because the methods to do so could likely cause even more damage than the tornado." This particular tornado damaged the Pfizer plant, other structures and injured at least 16 people as it rumbled along the ground for more than 16 miles. 

In November, Alan Gerard, deputy division chief of the lab’s warning research and development division, told USA Today that a patent application for an artificial tornado generating mechanism using pipes to create a tornado wouldn’t work on the scale of the tornado that touched down in North Carolina. Rocky Mount, the site of the Pfizer plant is about 60 miles east of Raleigh.

"There are other similar-type systems used for various purposes as educational displays, but would not be applicable on any sort of larger scale," Gerard said. 

We rate claims this tornado was human-generated to get Pfizer an insurance payment False. 


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Claim tornado planned for Pfizer insurance money unfounded

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