RALEIGH, N.C., April 17 (UPI) -- The death toll in the tornado-battered southern United States rose to 46 Sunday as rescuers sifted through rubble, emergency officials in several states said.
Howling windstorms killed at least 22 people in North Carolina Saturday, The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer reported. Tornadoes and flash flooding killed seven people in Virginia Saturday, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported.
In one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever recorded, 241 twisters were reported in 14 states from Thursday through Saturday -- from the Plains into the Midwest, Deep South and Carolinas, Accuweather.com said. Besides the fatalities in North Carolina and Virginia, the storms killed seven people in Arkansas, seven in Alabama, two in Oklahoma and one in Mississippi, officials have said.
It cited a powerful jet stream, high humidity and a strong cold front as contributing factors.
In Virginia, Mathews County Sheriff Steve Gentry said a tornado churned on the ground for 7 1/2 miles near Coke, leaving three people dead and more than 60 injured, the Newport News, Va., Daily Press reported.
The Charlotte Observer and the Bladen Journal in North Carolina said the deaths included three people in a mobile home park in northeast Raleigh, three deaths in Bladen County, one in Sanford and another in Cumberland County.
North Carolina officials said rescue teams were searching for people reported missing in Lee and Cumberland counties.
The Observer said one twister roared through Sanford, producing a mile-long path of destruction.
Roofs were torn off a Lowe's building center in Sanford and off the student center at Shaw University in Raleigh
Gov. Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, WNCT-TV in Greenville reported. She also temporarily suspended the restrictions on work hours for utility workers so power lines could be repaired as quickly as possible and for truck drivers transporting supplies to affected communities and for the removal of debris.
Perdue was scheduled to fly over the affected areas Sunday, local media said.
Gov. Robert McDonnell declared a state of emergency Sunday for Virginia, The Washington Times reported.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by the storms and flooding in the Commonwealth," McDonnell said in a written statement. "I have declared a state of emergency to direct all possible resources towards responding to this event."