Eastern U.S. bears brunt of storms

Shelters opened in North Carolina, as hundreds of homes damaged.

RALEIGH, NC (UPI) | April 17, 2011

Hundreds of mobile homes like this on in Virgilina, VA where destroyed when severe storms swept across the Southeastern states Saturday.
Credit: VDEM

Two days of tornadoes and violent storms killed 22 people and left others homeless as storms ripped across the southern United States, officials said.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., reported at least five people were confirmed dead in Cumberland, Johnston and Bladen counties as severe storms spawned twisters across much of North Carolina. The TV station also said a Lowe's Home Improvement store in Sanford was destroyed.

Doug Hoell, director of North Carolina Emergency Management, told WRAL-TV at least 15 counties had reported significant damage from tornadoes.

"Dozens, likely scores, of homes are destroyed or severely damaged," he said.

The National Weather Service received 71 reports of tornadoes and 93 reports of wind damage, the TV station said.

WNCN-TV in Raleigh reported an entire mobile home park near Micro was destroyed with more than 100 people reportedly displaced.

The News & Observer in Raleigh said the storm system downed power lines, toppled trees and damaged buildings in the Triangle region.

A Progress Energy spokesman said at least 70,000 customers were without power.

"It's really bad," Raleigh Fire Department Lt. Adam Stanley said.

Employees and customers at the Sanford, NC Lowes home improvement store escaped serious injury according to WRAL-TV.

Employees said they saw a "wall of churning debris and winds" headed for the store and herded everyone to the back of the building. The store was demolished by the storm but only minor injuries were initially reported.

At the height of the storm, 90 counties in North Carolina and southern Virginia were under severe weather and flood warnings.At least seven people died in Arkansas, seven in Alabama, two in Oklahoma and one in Mississippi, CNN reported. The National Weather Service said more than 100 twisters were spotted through that region.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency Friday following reports of two tornado touchdowns in at least six counties, as storms knocked down trees and snapped power lines.

"This is a serious storm that has already caused significant damage across the South. I hope Alabamians take extreme caution while these storms move through," Bentley said.

Georgia Power reported nearly 20,000 power outages as storms dropped golf ball-sized hail and knocked down trees.

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