NC faces massive cleanup as death toll rises to 22


BONNETSVILLE, N.C. — Shards of glass from old bottles and furniture smashed by a tornado that tore through town littered the concrete floor of Rhonda Carter’s antique store, shattering her plans to open an auction house in nearby Salemburg. A storage area in the back was flattened.

Morgan Barfield right, and Madson Barfield hang their grandfather’s WWll American flag from a tree at her grandmother’s home in Colerain, N.C., Monday, April 18, 2011 after a tornado ripped through the area Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)

June White searches through what is left of Moore’s Family Care Home in Colerain, N.C., Monday, April 18, 2011 after a tornado ripped through the area Saturday. A doll hangs in a bush at a home in Colerain, N.C., Monday, April 18, 2011 after a tornado ripped through the area Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)

"I just had a feeling something bad was going to happen, and it did," Carter said of Saturday, when storms raged through Bonnetsville and other parts of North Carolina, killing at least 22 and damaging or destroying more than 800 homes. "Now I’m starting over."
From remote rural communities to the state’s second-largest city, thousands of residents hit by the worst tornado outbreak in nearly 30 years were clearing away rubble and debris, repairing power lines and facing a recovery that will cost tens of millions of dollars.

The storms that chugged across the South last week killed at least 45 people in six states, but the worst devastation came over about four hours Saturday in North Carolina. Officials were still tallying the toll, with police in Raleigh announcing that a 6-month-old child who had been in the hospital ended up dying from her injuries.

"In the blink of an eye, so many people have been plunged into grief and crisis," said Preston Parrish, executive vice president of ministry at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which dispatched its disaster-response teams to four areas of the state.

One was Bertie County in the state’s northeast corner, where the ministry also deployed volunteers just seven months ago, after floods devastated the county seat of Windsor and surrounding communities.

At least two tornadoes hit the county in rapid succession, one doing enough damage to kill 11 people. The twisters descended suddenly, with only about 15 minutes of warning.

"I saw it coming, we got in there, and as soon as we hit the door, boom, it hit," said Roy Lee, whose house was destroyed. "About three minutes max it was over."

When it was over, Lee’s neighbor, 60-year-old Peggy Leary, was dead.

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