Death toll at 21 as storms rip across the US

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Old 17-Apr-2011
Death toll at 21 as storms rip across the US

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Raleigh, North Carolina: A brutal spring storm raged across North Carolina on Saturday, flattening businesses, flipping cars and destroying homes, leaving at least four dead from a system already blamed for killing 17 people in four states. The death toll was likely to rise.

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue said there were fatalities in four counties but could not confirm an exact number, saying officials wanted to wait until Sunday morning.

Earlier, officials in Raleigh said more than one person died in the capital city in Wake County, one of the counties Perdue mentioned. Urban search and rescue teams were also looking for residents who might be trapped in damaged buildings. Perdue said some 62 tornadoes were reported.

This year's spring storm was easily the deadliest of the season, but there were stories of survival, too.

In South Carolina, a church with six people inside collapsed after it was hit by a tornado, but somehow no one was injured.

And in Sanford, North Carolina, the manager of a Lowe's hardware store was credited with saving more than 100 workers and employees by ushering them to the back of the store, which acted as a makeshift shelter as the weather rolled in.

The storms began in Oklahoma on Thursday, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Seven people each were killed in Arkansas and Alabama, which was hit a day earlier.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited some of the devastated areas and declared the entire state a disaster.

Things looked similar in North Carolina. Roofs were ripped off stores, trees were plucked out of the ground and "scores" of homes were damaged, emergency management director Doug Hoell said.

Police in Raleigh evacuated residents at a mobile park, and emergency crews went door-to-door looking for people injured or trapped by the storm that flipped mobile homes from one side of the street to the other.

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