KENLY, N.C. (AP)- A cluster of strong thunderstorms produced tornadoes as severe weather swept across central North Carolina early Saturday, killing two people and destroying at least a half-dozen homes.
A woman was found dead amid the rubble that was once her
home in the community of Kenly, about 35 miles southeast of Raleigh, said state
police spokeswoman Patty McQuillan. The only thing left standing was her front
Elsewhere in Johnston County, authorities said a child also
was killed. A third person authorities thought was missing had been accounted
Residents emerged at daybreak to find their homes in ruins,
cars flipped over and debris strewn about. Several injuries also were reported.
Officials said the severe storm affected a half-dozen
counties, knocking down tress and power lines.
"It was pretty massive destruction," Johnston
County emergency management coordinator Derrick Duggins said. "It goes to
show the magnitude of what natural weather can do."
Kenly residents picked through the debris of Mark
Stephenson's one-story brick home that was leveled. Family and friends piled up
mattresses, took pictures of the damage and filled garbage bags with trash.
The winds tossed family portraits into the woods some 200
yards away. The skeleton of a new camper the Stephensons had just bought rested
One half of Stephenson's home was flattened, while a tree
had fallen through the other half, on top of his 19-year-old daughter's
bedroom. She was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
"It's hard to believe, it's hard to take in,"
Stephenson said. "We've got our lives and our health, so we're good to
His 14-year-old son, Hunter, pointed to what used to be his
bedroom - now just a pile of bricks and beams. Hunter's bedroom was being
remodeled and he had been sleeping in the living room.
"I'm lucky," he said. "It's crazy, if I would
have been in there, I would have been dead."
Three homes away, Stacey Franks, 31, checked on her
78-year-old father. Two large trees had missed falling on his mobile home by a
few feet. His tractor-trailer had been flipped on its side.
"He's nerves are really damaged. He's just upset,"
Franks said of her father. "I just can't believe this has happened."
Authorities did not immediately release the names or ages of
U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who represents the area, surveyed
the damage Saturday, describing beams in the home where the woman was found as
spaghetti-like. Gov. Mike Easley planned to tour the area Sunday.
A Red Cross Shelter was opened at a church in Kenly.
National Weather Service officials were sending crews out to survey the damage.
The weakened storm system moved northeast to the Virginia
coast. National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Blaes warned there was
potential for another round of nasty weather along the Carolinas coast Saturday
afternoon as a cold front crept across the region.
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