Survivors Go Through N.C. Tornado Rubble

The Associated Press
Friday, November 17, 2006; 8:11 PM

RIEGELWOOD, N.C. -- Survivors picked through the rubble of their flattened homes Friday after a tornado killed eight people in this riverside town, the area hardest hit by a devastating storm system that later swept through the Northeast.

Gov. Mike Easley toured the devastated area as disaster assessment teams surveyed what was left of a mobile home park and several brick homes that were flattened by the storm.

More than half of the 20 people injured when the tornado struck Riegelwood remained hospitalized Friday, including four children Easley said were in "very, very critical condition."

The governor declared a state disaster in Columbus County, allowing those affected by the storm to apply for state aid. He said it didn't appear the damage in North Carolina would reach the $8.9 million threshold for federal aid, but he assured locals he would find state funds to help them if it didn't.

The deadly storms left a three-day path of destruction from Louisiana to Maine, killing 12 people, knocking out power and flooding streets.

Hundreds of people in New York and dozens in Maryland had to be rescued Thursday from homes and cars caught in flash flooding. Most of Maine was still under a flood watch Friday.

Columbus County Sheriff Chris Batten said authorities ended their search for bodies Thursday night and had accounted for everyone. A precautionary dive into a nearby pond on Friday turned up no bodies.

Survivors, meanwhile, began retrieving whatever valuables they could salvage from devastated homes.

Darryl McNair had been sleeping when the tornado picked up his mobile home and tossed it across the street into his neighbor's yard.

"You could feel the house moving," McNair, 34, said during a break from picking through rubble Friday.

"My whole life was in that house," he said, crying. "Everything that was me was in that house. How could you lose everything in so short a time? I struggled to get that stuff and now it's all out in the road like it was nothing."

As the storms moved northward with heavy rain, officials in Broome County, N.Y., near the Pennsylvania line, rescued more than 200 residents from cars caught in flooding and from homes as water approached front doors and poured into basements.

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