- Associated Press - Sunday, April 17, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. | Rescue crews searched for survivors in wind-blasted landscapes Sunday in North Carolina, the state hardest hit by a storm system that spawned dozens of tornadoes from Oklahoma to Virginia and left dozens dead.

The spring storm, North Carolina’s deadliest in two decades, spun off 62 tornadoes in that state alone Saturday night. Eleven people were confirmed dead in rural Bertie County, county manager Zee Lamb said.

Another four were confirmed dead in Bladen County, bringing the state’s death toll to at least 21. Deaths reported by officials in five other states brought the U.S. toll to 45.

In the capital city of Raleigh, three family members died in a mobile home park, said Wake County spokeswoman Sarah Williamson-Baker. At that trailer park, residents lined up outside Sunday and asked police guarding the area when they might get back in.

Peggy Mosley, 54, who has lived in the park for 25 years, said she was prepared when the storm bore down on the trailer park. She gathered small pillows and other material and hunkered down in her small bathroom.

“I went and got into my small bathroom and just sat in there and cried and prayed until it was over,” Ms. Mosley said.

Farther up the street, Angelina McCaizie was also among those hoping to get back to their homes. She said she had been cooking when she saw the winds and rain pick up. She grabbed her children, nephew and brother and brought them into the kitchen, where everyone ducked until the storm passed.

When the storm was over, Mrs. McCaizie, her husband and her brother went outside to check on neighbors. She said she saw several people bleeding and others with broken bones. Mrs. McCaizie also said one resident ran up to her shouting, “Please help me! Please help me! I need 911.”

“It was horrible,” Mrs. McCaizie said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said Sunday that state emergency management officials told her more than 20 were killed by the storms in North Carolina. However, the far-flung damage made it difficult to confirm the total number of deaths.

The storm claimed its first lives Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Authorities have said seven died in Arkansas; seven in Alabama; two in Oklahoma; and one in Mississippi. In Virginia, local emergency officials reported seven storm-related deaths, said Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner.

Mr. Spieldenner said the state medical examiner’s office confirmed one person died in Gloucester, where a tornado hit; two died in flash flooding in Waynesboro; and one person died in Wythe County when a tree fell on a mobile home. Officials were still investigating another two deaths reported in Gloucester and one in Page County.

In North Carolina, the governor declared a state of emergency and 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.

Daybreak brought news of a horrific death toll in Bertie County, a place of about 21,000 people about 130 miles east of Raleigh. The tornado moved through about 7 p.m. Saturday, sweeping homes from their foundations, demolishing others, and flipping cars on tiny rural roads between Askewville and Colerain, Mr. Lamb said. At least three of those who died were from the same family, he said.

One of the volunteers who scoured the rubble was an Iraq war veteran who told Mr. Lamb he was stunned by what he saw.

“He did two tours of duty in Iraq and the scene was worse than he ever saw in Iraq — that’s pretty devastating,” Mr. Lamb said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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