Half of the North Carolina fatalities were in Bertie County, a rural county about 120 miles northeast of Raleigh that has just 21,000 residents.
Two suspected tornadoes cut a wide swath across the county, flattening houses and tossing around farm equipment and vehicles, said Zee Lamb, Bertie’s county manager.
“There are homes that are just totally leveled,” he said. “Anybody who was in those homes could not have survived.”
Among the dead were several elderly residents of an assisted-living facility that was caught in the path of the storm, Lamb said.
Similar scenes of destruction could be found in elsewhere in the state, notable in Wake County, Sanford and Dunn.
In Northeast Raleigh, three children were killed when the mobile home they lived in was crushed by a falling tree. A fourth child, a six-month old girl, is in critical condition.
The scene left neighbors of the victims screaming in vain to help them get their babies out from under the tree.
In the neighborhoods just east and south of downtown Raleigh, there was substantial wind damage, but remarkably no one was killed. Shaw University, founded in 1865 as the first historically black college in the South, announced Saturday it would remain closed for the remainder of the semester because of the damage.
The city of Raleigh had roughly 30 teams out working to clear away debris.
I have friends out that way who so far have checked in and say they are alright, but they all tell me that this is the worse storm damage since Hugo in 1989. We just don't get tornadoes in the eastern part of NC. And yet when we do get them, they are devastating.