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OMG! Vicious storm cuts wide swath across U.S

Sunday, April 17, 2011

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RALEIGH, North Carolina. – A furious storm system that kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as softballs has claimed at least 35 lives on a rampage that began in Oklahoma days ago, then smashed across several Southern states as it reached a new and deadly pitch in North Carolina and Virginia.

Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swaths of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported from the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the state. Ten people were confirmed dead in Bertie County, county manager Zee Lamb said. At least three deaths were reported in Virginia. Authorities warned the toll was likely to rise further Sunday as searchers probed shattered homes and businesses.

The storm claimed its first lives Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Seven people each were killed in Arkansas and Alabama, two people in Oklahoma and one person in Mississippi, authorities have said.

In North Carolina, Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency after reporting fatalities in at least four counties. But she declined to immediately confirm an exact number of deaths. She said the 62 tornadoes reported were the most since March 1984, when a storm system spawned 22 twisters in the Carolinas that killed 57 people — 42 in North Carolina — and injured hundreds.

At one point, more than 250,000 people went without power in North Carolina before emergency utility crews began repairing downed lines. But scattered outages were expected to linger at least until Monday.

Among areas hit by power outages was Raleigh, a bustling city of more than 400,000 people where some of the bigger downtown thoroughfares were blocked by fallen trees early Sunday.

In Sanford, about 40 miles southwest of Raleigh, a busy shopping district was pummeled by the storms, with some businesses losing rooftops in what observers described as a ferocious tornado. The Lowe's Home Improvement Center in Sanford looked flattened, with jagged beams and wobbly siding sticking up from the pancaked entrance. Cars in the parking lot were flipped by the winds.

In Virginia, Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner, said an apparent tornado ploughed through communities of Gloucester County, destroying or damaging homes, uprooting trees in a quiet farming and fishing region along the Chesapeake Bay.

Authorities said at least three deaths had been confirmed in Gloucester County and at least 60 were injured, most with minor injuries. Spieldenner said one person was killed when a vehicle ran into flash flooding near Waynesboro. Another person was missing and a third rescued. (Reference)
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