Five eastern counties report tornado touchdowns

By Tom Foreman Jr.

Associated Press

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CHARLOTTE — At least five counties in eastern North Carolina reported tornadoes on Tuesday as the system that ignited violent weather across the South closed in on the state, the National Weather Service said.

Cumberland County emergency officials were investigating reports of a tornado in the eastern part of the county. Emergency Services Director Randy Beeman said law enforcement was dispatched to the area of Stedman. Beeman said trees were toppled and there was structural damage but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The weather service also had unconfirmed reports of a tornado on the ground in Sampson County east of Autryville.

In Edgecombe County, a touchdown was reported with a roof blown off a home, numerous trees down and minor structural damage.

A tornado briefly touched down in Craven County, and there was a reported sighting in Jones County. There were no reports of damages or injuries.

Widespread flooding was reported in the city of Wilson. Police told The Wilson Times that some vehicles had been stranded and drivers were being urged to stay off local streets. To the west, emergency personnel in Buncombe County rescued a number of people from their homes as a creek flooded north of Asheville.

The storms that rumbled across the South and Midwest over two days have killed at least 35 people. In North Carolina, no deaths have been reported in the most recent storms. An 11-month-old died from a tornado that hit Beaufort County last Friday.

A tornado watch was in effect for parts of central and eastern North Carolina until 9 p.m. Tuesday, but was later extended until 11 p.m. Meteorologist Mike Strickler said Wednesday would likely be a repeat performance and could cover a wider area.

“A frontal zone that’s the focus is going to be lifting through later (Tuesday) night and especially Wednesday,” Strickler said. “We may not have one focused area of persistent storms. Tomorrow, it’s probably going to encompass a larger area.”