CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The National Weather Service has confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in North Carolina early Thursday morning and they were part of the same series of ferocious storms which caused hundreds of deaths and damage throughout the South Wednesday evening.
Initially, tornadoes were reported in Alexander, Burke and Caldwell counties.
In Burke County, NWS weather watchers said damage in three areas north of Morganton towards the Chesterfield community seemed limited to only small twigs and leaves down.
The storm cut a path measuring about 25-50 feet wide before the trail disappeared. There were no major reports of damage in Burke County.
Since the NWS survey team did not find any significant damage in Burke County, they were unable to confirm that one touched down there.
However, they were able to confirm the damage in Alexander and Caldwell counties was caused by two tornadoes.
In Caldwell County, the NWS said a EF1 tornado touched town about 6 miles southeast of Lenoir around 3:20 a.m. EF1 tornadoes have wind speeds of about 86 to 110 mph.
This tornado left a path of destruction measuring about 100 yards in width and continued about 4.5 miles in length, the NWS said.
Twenty homes were damaged by the tornado in the Little River area, according to Caldwell County spokeswoman LouAnne Kincaid. One person suffered minor injuries from flying debris, but no other injuries were reported, she said.
Thursday morning, Sky 3 flew over a home in Caldwell County as people were salvaging items inside. The tornado knocked the prefabricated home several feet off its brick foundation and a portion of the roof was completely missing. (Refer to picture on right)
The second confirmed tornado was in Alexander County and struck around 3:30 a.m., about six miles northwest of Taylorsville.
This EF1 tornado left a path measuring about 50-75 yards in width and continued about 5 miles in length. Fortunately, no one was injured and there were no fatalities.
As the storm system moved east toward the coast Thursday afternoon, tornado sightings were reported in several counties east of the I-95 corridor.
No major damage was reported in the Charlotte metro area, but approximately 1,300 customers were without power for most of the day on Thursday.
At the peak of the storm, nearly 10,000 people in North and South Carolina were without power according to the Duke Energy website.
Related: Get the weather for your zip code!
Meanwhile, residents in several other southern states continue to assess the damage caused by tornadoes in their area caused by this same weather system. See related story.
Alabama was the hardest hit state during Wednesday's severe storms and tornado outbreaks.
President Barack Obama planned a trip to hard-hit Tuscaloosa on Friday to see the damage. He met with some families and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. (Scroll below to read the President's comments.)
The storms killed nearly 300 people, nearly two-thirds of them in Alabama.
In Tuscaloosa, crews are still going through rubble, looking for more possible victims or survivors.
The deadliest outbreak of violent storms in nearly 40 years left at least 266 people dead across the South -- and officials say they expect that number to rise.
Thirty-two Cleveland County students from Shelby Middle School were in Alabama when the storms hit Wednesday night. They were at the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. WBTV spoke with a mother of two of the children. She said the students spent most of the day on Wednesday in a bunker at the space center. Click to read story about the students' return home Thursday night.
Two volunteers from the Charlotte area are in Alabama to assist in response to Wednesday night's storms.
Dorney LePierre, of Hickory, and Jim Prive, of Charlotte, have taken the Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) to Alabama. The ECRV acts as a communications hub for Red Cross disaster response.
Deaths associated with the storms were also reported in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky.
The following is the forecast for the Charlotte area this weekend:
Friday: Plenty of sunshine, a cool start, followed by a nice, mild afternoon with a high 76°.
Friday night: Clear skies, very cool again, low 45°.
Saturday: Sunshine, cool start, pleasantly warm afternoon with a high 78°.
Sunday: Mostly sunny and a little warmer, high 82°.
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REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
DURING TOUR OF TORNADO DEVASTATION
10:46 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Michelle and I want to express, first of all, our deepest condolences to not just the city of Tuscaloosa but the state of Alabama and all the other states that have been affected by this unbelievable storm. We just took a tour, and I've got to say I've never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking. We were just talking to some residents here who were lucky enough to escape alive, but have lost everything. They mentioned that their neighbors had lost two of their grandchildren in the process.
What you're seeing here is the consequence of just a few minutes of this extraordinarily powerful storm sweeping through this community. And as the governor was mentioning, Tuscaloosa typically gets a tornado during the season, but this is something that I don't think anybody has seen before.
In addition to keeping all the families who've been affected in our thoughts and prayers, obviously our biggest priority now is to help this community recover. I want to thank Mayor Maddox for his extraordinary leadership. Chief Burgess (ph) I know is having to dealing with a lot of difficulties. One of the challenges that the mayor was explaining is, is that the assets of the city -- a fire station that we passed on the way in, police resources, emergency resources -- those too have been affected.
Fortunately the governor has done an extraordinary job with his team in making sure that the resources of the state are mobilized and have been brought in here. I'm very pleased that we've got a FEMA director in Craig Fugate who is as experienced as anybody in responding to disasters even of this magnitude. And we've already provided the disaster designations -- we've already provided the disaster designations that are required to make sure that the maximum federal help comes here as quickly as possible.
Craig is working with the teams on the ground to make sure that we are seamlessly coordinating between the state, local and federal governments. And I want to just make a commitment to the communities here that we are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild.
We can't bring those who have been lost back. They're alongside God at this point. We can help maybe a little bit with the families dealing with the grief of having a loved one lost. But the property damage, which is obviously extensive, that's something that we can do something about.
And so we're going to do everything we can to partner with you, Mr. Mayor, with you, governor. As the governor was pointing out, this community was hit as bad as any place, but there are communities all across Alabama and all across this region that have been affected, and we're going to be making that same commitment to make sure that we're doing whatever we can to make sure that people are okay.
That bee likes you. (Laughter.)
GOVERNOR BENTLEY: It's a wasp.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, got it. There you go.
GOVERNOR BENTLEY: No, he got him away. You didn't get him.
MAYOR MADDOX: Where's the Secret Service when you need them? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Finally, let me just say this. As you walk around, we were just talking to three young people over there -- college students here at the University of Alabama who are volunteering now to help clean up. One of the young ladies there, she actually lived in this apartment; wasn't here at the time the storm happened.
What you're struck by is people's resilience and the way that the community has come together. And obviously that's testimony to the leadership of the governor and the mayor, but it's also inherent as part of the American spirit. We go through hard times, but no matter how hard we may be tested, we maintain our faith and we look to each other to make sure that we're supporting each other and helping each other. I'm sure that that spirit is going to continue until this city is all the way back.
So, Mr. Mayor -- he was pointing out that there's a lot of national media down here now, and the mayor expressed the concern that perhaps the media will move on in a day or a week or a month, and that folks will forget what's happened here. And I want to assure him that the American people all across the country are with him and his community, and we're going to make sure that you're not forgotten and that we do everything we can to make sure that we rebuild.
So with that, Governor, would you like to say a few words?
GOVERNOR BENTLEY: I would. And, Mr. President, I would like to personally thank you and Mrs. Obama for coming and visiting Alabama because you know as you fly over this -- and I did yesterday -- as you fly over it from the air, it does not do it justice until you're here on the ground. And I just want you to know how much I appreciate that.
We asked for -- we've mobilized the state. We declared a state of emergency early on, even before the first tornadoes hit, and then we mobilized our National Guard the first day. We then asked the President for aid and we asked him to expedite that, and they have done that. And I just want you to know how much I appreciate that, Mr. President, because all these people appreciate that so much.
We have eight counties across the state that have been hit by major tornadoes. This probably is the worst one, but we have others. As you go across the state, you see the same evidence of tornadoes all across the state.
And so there are people that are hurting. We have now 210 confirmed deaths in Alabama. We have 1,700 injured. We have a number of people missing at the present time. We're going to continue to work in a rescue-type mode, but we're now more in a recovery mode.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) If you'll keep him off of me --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to keep my eye on you. We're looking out for each other. That's --
GOVERNOR BENTLEY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. (Laughter.)
But I am -- let me say I am so proud of our first responders in this state. They have done an outstanding job. Our mayors, our county commissioners, our police, our firemen -- they have all just done a fantastic job. Our EMA people, they have just -- we have got a great team. They've all worked together. And now we have the federal government helping us. And, you know, that just shows when locals and state and federal government works together, we can get things accomplished, and that's what we're going to do.
And so, Mr. President, welcome to Alabama, but not under these circumstances. We want you to come back and maybe go to a football game over here at a later day and when things are better. But thank you for your help.
THE PRESIDENT: I will gladly come back.
GOVERNOR BENTLEY: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Mayor, if you'd like to say a few words.
MAYOR MADDOX: Mr. President, Governor, Mrs. Obama, thank you for coming today. The last 36 hours have been probably the most trying time in this community's history. But you're going to see a new story being written here in Tuscaloosa. And in the years to come these chapters are going to be fueled with hope and opportunity.
Since this tragedy began, I've been using Romans 12:12 when Paul wrote under persecution, "Rejoice in our confident hope." Well, today, Mr. President, your visit here has brought a confident hope to this community. And in the days, weeks and months to come, we're going to be a story that you're going to be very proud of and you can talk about across this land.
Thank you again for coming today.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for your leadership. And two last points I want to make. First of all, we've got our congressional delegation here, and I am absolutely confident that they will make sure that the resources are available to help rebuild.
To all the local officials who are here, I know that they've been personally affected, but I know that they're going to provide the leadership in this community, working with the mayor and the governor to do what is needed.
And finally, I think the mayor said something very profound as we were driving over here. He said, what's amazing is when something like this happens, folks forget all their petty differences. Politics, differences of religion or race, all that fades away when we are confronted with the awesome power of nature. And we're reminded that all we have is each other.
And so hopefully that spirit continues and grows. If nothing else comes out of this tragedy, let's hope that that's one of the things that comes out.
So thank you very much, everybody.
END 10:56 A.M. CDT