According to the National Weather Service and reports coming in from affected states, more than 40 people were killed from violent storms raging across the US Southeast.
A CNN meteorologist called the storms’ impact on North Carolina “epic.”
Among the worst hit areas was Bertie County, North Carolina, a rural area in the northeast part of the state. The weather service reported 14 deaths in the county. Zee Lamb, county manager, said there were 11 fatalities.
More than 50 people were taken to hospitals in Greenville, and between 50 and 70 homes were destroyed, Lamb said.
“Reports are still incoming,” Mike Sprayberry, deputy director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, said Sunday morning.
The death toll across six states includes another 9 in other parts of North Carolina; 4 in Virginia; 7 in Alabama, 2 in Oklahoma, 7 in Arkansas, and 1 in Mississippi.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency “to direct all possible resources towards responding to this event.”
For North Carolina, “When the storm count is finalized, this will likely be an historic tornado outbreak,” said CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. “It is quite unusual to have this many supercell tornadoes of this intensity strike the area.”
North Carolina normally gets about 19 tornadoes a year, according to the National Climatic Data Center. There are 90 preliminary reports of tornadoes in the state in the latest storm system. A single tornado often gets multiple reports, so it is not immediately clear how many there were, Jeras explained. “But regardless, this is an epic event.”
The deaths in North Carolina included 3 people in Raleigh who were killed in mobile homes, the weather service said. In eastern North Carolina, 2 people died near Ammon, 1 was killed in the Bladenboro area and another died in the Benson and Black Creek area, the weather service said.
North Carolina state Rep. Mike Stone reported 2 additional deaths in Lee County.
At Camp Lejeune, according to a news release, an unknown number of base residents suffered injuries, and nearly 30 homes were damaged following a series of tornadoes that touched down near a housing area Saturday evening.
One seriously injured child was taken to a nearby hospital, according to the statement.
The storm rendered 5 homes uninhabitable and prompted officials to set up a temporary shelter at a nearby elementary school, the statement read.
Gov. Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for the entire state, according to the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.
“We’ve been assured we’ll have whatever federal support we’ll need,” Perdue told reporters late Saturday.
The governor said that as of late Saturday, the number of storm-related power outages had dropped from 250,000 to 143,000.
The service said more than 100 twisters have been spotted across the region during the recent storms.
In South Carolina, a tornado cut through Berkeley County, destroying a church and injuring 6 people, the weather service said.
Meanwhile, emergency crews in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama worked to assess the damage after the storm system moved north through the Carolinas and up into southern Virginia.
In Virginia, 3 Gloucester County residents died and 64 suffered injuries from the fast-moving storms Saturday, according to Bob Spieldenner, director of public affairs for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
A tornado also ripped the roof off a school in the county, felled trees that blocked multiple roads, and severed power lines, leaving 9,300 people without electricity, according to Spieldenner.
In the Shenandoah Valley, in the western part of the state, a child died after being swept away in a flash flood, according to the National Weather Service. Spieldenner said authorities rescued another flood victim, but a third is missing.
The storms were the latest in a round of severe weather that has hit parts of the Midwest and South since Thursday. They left a trail of downed trees and power lines, scattered cars, and crushed homes as it moved east.