The massive, weekend storm system that killed dozens of people, and destroyed buildings, livestock and other property as it swept east across the country, produced the most significant insured losses in North Carolina and Virginia, officials said.
The thunderstorm system — which included tornadoes, high winds and hail — formed Thursday in the Southwest and produced severe thunderstorms in rural areas of Oklahoma, Arizona Alabama and Mississippi as it moved east over the weekend.
The National Weather Service said more than 240 tornadoes were reported over three days — including one in the vicinity of Tushka, Oklahoma, that generated winds in excess of 135 miles an hour. A total of 40 counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma were under a tornado watch; in Texas, five counties saw hail the size of golf balls.
“Thousands of trees were toppled or snapped, and downed power lines cut electricity to tens of thousands of households… Roofs were ripped from homes and, in the most severe cases, homes and businesses were flattened,” said Tim Doggett, a scientist with Boston-based AIR Worldwide.
The storm moved up the East Coast on Friday and Saturday, as tornado destroyed houses in knocked down power lines in Alabama before reaching the Carolinas and Virginia where the costliest damage occurred. Over 250,000 people lost power as commercial and residential structures were pounded with hail and subjected to wind speeds in some instances exceeding 160 miles per hour.
It was the worst storm in two decades in North Carolina, where at least 21 people were killed and hundreds of homes damaged. Authorities are assessing the destruction from deadly weekend storms, as cleanup and relief efforts continue for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. In Virginia, at least five died.
Bertie County was the hardest-hit in North Carolina, as 67 homes were destroyed along with crops. Assessed loss totals there are approximately $2.5 million.
Crews in those two states are continuing to assess damage. “We’re going to do the best we can to rush aid to people as soon as possible,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who toured storm-damaged areas of the state on Monday.
The effects of the tornados were felt as far away as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, where high winds and isolated flash flooding occurred in certain locations on Saturday night.
“Our condolences go out to all Americans affected by this catastrophic tornado outbreak,” said Christopher Hackett, director of personal lines policy for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “We know that many lost loved ones and many more suffered catastrophic property damage. Insurance adjusters are in the field now, working to help victims of this storm put their lives back together.” PCI has issued guidelines and information to help home and business owners file claims.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report
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