(Updates with new death toll, quotes, details)
By Ned Barnett
RALEIGH, N.C., April 17 Three days of severe
storms and tornadoes in the southern United States killed at
least 43 people, downed power lines and wrecked hundreds of
buildings, officials said on Sunday.
North Carolina accounted for the bulk of casualties and
property losses, with 22 people killed and more than 80 others
injured. Significant damage was reported in at least 15
counties and power outages affected more than 200,000 people.
Virginia officials said there were four deaths and
unconfirmed reports of three more in the state. Virginia
emergency officials said that 177 structures were damaged by
the severe weather.
It appeared to be the deadliest U.S. storm since February
2008, when 57 people died in two days from tornadoes in the
South and Ohio Valley, said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Andy
Dominion Virginia Power said the two nuclear reactors at
its Surry Power Station in southeastern Virginia shut down
automatically on Saturday when an apparent tornado touched down
and cut off an electrical feed to the station.
Backup generators operated normally and both units "are in
safe and stable condition," the utility said in a statement.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said
on Sunday no radiation was released during the storm and
shutdown. "Everything worked the way it should," he said.
The storms began in Oklahoma on Thursday, then moved
through the South and hit the East Coast by Saturday. There
were 241 tornadoes reported, with 50 confirmed.
Seven people died as a result of the storms in Alabama,
seven died in Arkansas and one died in Mississippi. Two people
were killed in Oklahoma when a tornado flattened buildings.
HOMES, BELONGINGS SCATTERED
Governors in North Carolina and Virginia declared a state
of emergency as authorities scrambled with rescue and cleanup
In North Carolina, high winds destroyed or damaged more
than 460 houses, said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the
state's Division of Emergency Management.
"We're used to hurricanes. We're used to tornadoes. We're
used to floods. But we're not used to losing 11 of our
citizens," said Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb. The sprawling,
rural area in northeastern North Carolina, was the hardest
"The thing about this storm that is different than a
typical tornado was the width," Lamb said. "It wasn't just 100
or 200 yards wide, but a half-mile wide and it stayed on the
ground for six miles or so."
Progress Energy PGN.N, the main utility in eastern North
Carolina, said 220,000 customers were without electricity at
the peak of the storm, with 78,000 homes and utilities still
without power on Sunday morning.
The storm snapped hundreds of power poles and 30
transmission structures were damaged, company spokesman Mike
Hughes said. In some areas, tornadoes swept away poles and
wires and dropped them elsewhere.
"There are some parts where a tornado took the utility
structure away and we cannot find it," Hughes said.
The stormy weather let up on Sunday, but Mussoline said
more tornadoes could threaten the southern plains and Ohio
Valley in the coming week, particularly on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins, Wendell Marsh and
David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jackie