Tornado-shocked victims tried to put their shattered lives and homes back in order Tuesday from a series of twisters that killed four people, including a couple found with their arms wrapped around each other.
At least 17 tornado touch downs were reported early Monday, covering 200 miles of eastern North Carolina, injuring 151 people and causing more than $50 million in damage.One tornado sent one couple on a flying-mattress ride. Mark and Vera Cimerro landed on their mattress against a tree across the street.
"I held onto her as tight as I could, and the next thing I know, we are flying," said Cimerro. "It was like a ride at the fair." Their home was destroyed but they were not seriously injured.
A neighbor, 8-year-old Janet Barnes, died when a chimney collapsed on her bed.
Further north in Raleigh, 12-year-old Edwin "Pete" Fulghum died of head and chest injuries.
In rural Nash County, Lee Roy Alston died with his arms wrapped around his fatally injured wife, Mary, apparently in an effort to shield her from the tornado that destroyed their mobile home, authorities said. They had been thrown from the mobile home. Their two children, ages 14 and 8, survived.
Authorities had put the death toll at six, but later corrected it to four.
The tornadoes struck in nine counties, from Wake in the center of the state, to Dare on the Atlantic Coast, authorities said. Most of the damage was in Raleigh, where tornadoes cut a 10-mile swath.
City Manager Dempsey Benton said the storm caused about $50 million in damage in Raleigh, the state capital. With about 85 percent of estimates completed, about 152 businesses and residential buildings were destroyed, 301 buildings received major damage and 644 buildings minor damage, he said.
About 500 people were left homeless in Raleigh. Damage estimates from other counties were not compiled.
The storms brought reminders of the 24 twisters that ripped a 250-mile path through the state in 1984, killing 44 people, injuring more than 800 and leaving 2,300 homeless.