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.
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.
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."
In South Carolina, a tornado cut through Berkeley County, destroying a church and injuring six people, the weather service said.
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. 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.