Powerful storms that have ripped across the Southeast killed more than 40 people over the past three days, according to the National Weather Service and reports from several states.
A CNN meteorologist called the storms’ impact on North Carolina “epic.”
Among the worst-hit places 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 nine in other parts of North Carolina; four in Virginia; seven in Alabama, two in Oklahoma, seven in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center said it received reports of at least 230 tornadoes across the region during the past three days, though some of those reports were likely sightings of the same twister.
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 three people in Raleigh who were killed in mobile homes, the weather service said. In eastern North Carolina, two people died near Ammon, one 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 two additional deaths in Lee County.
At Camp Lejeune, according to a news release, roughly a dozen homes were destroyed and as many as 120 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.
CNN affiliate WTVD broadcast images of damaged homes and vehicles in Smithfield, North Carolina, as local residents and emergency workers surveyed the damage.
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.
In South Carolina, a tornado cut through Berkeley County, destroying a church and injuring six 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, three 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 and then turned north.