US south blitzed by string of tornadoes

Monday 18th Apr 2011 by theWeather Club

Rescuers are searching for survivors in North Carolina after three days of storms and tornadoes hit a series of American's southern states killing at least 45 people. Governor Beverley Perdue declared a state of emergency in the territory, which was hit by up to 62 tornadoes and suffered 21 deaths, the highest toll for any of the states affected. Fatalities have also reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia.

Officials in North Carolina said the number of victims could possibly increase as search and rescue teams reached more remote areas. Hailstones the size of grapefruit were reported as the storms swept through the region, creating flash floods as well as tornadoes. The storms first struck Oklahoma on Thursday before sweeping eastward, and some parts saw their worst tornadoes in decades. The storms have left an estimated 200,000 homes in North Carolina without power. More than 240 tornadoes were reported over the three days, including 62 in North Carolina, but the US National Weather Service's final count could be lowered as some tornadoes may have been reported more than once.

Most of the states 21 confirmed deaths occurred in two rural counties - four in Bladen and 11 in Bertie. Hitting Bertie about 7pm (local time) on Saturday, the storm swept some homes completely off their foundations, demolished others, destroyed cars and sent a hail of devastating debris crashing into surviving buildings. Scott Sharp, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office based in local town Raleigh, said the devastation was due to a family of tornadoes that were part of the same thunderstorm system, with one rotating updraft cropping up after another had dissipated.

North Carolina governor Perdue said the number of tornadoes had been the highest since 1984, when tornadoes killed 42 people. However US meteorologists say the storm was not as bad as an event known as 'Super Tuesday', when a string of tornadoes struck in 2008 - also mainly in the southern states - claiming 56 lives.