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8 Die in N.C. Tornado; Storms Head North

November 17, 2006

RIEGELWOOD, N.C. (AP) _ Hours after a deadly tornado ripped through this small riverside community, Tomeka Jenkins was allowed to return to her home _ what was left of it.

The walls and roof were gone, and the exposed carpeting was covered in debris: broken bunk beds, an artificial Christmas tree, clothing, two teddy bears.

``Other than what I have on, this is all I have right in front of me,″ 29-year-old Jenkins said Thursday as crews worked to restore electricity to nearby homes spared by the storm.

Eight people were killed when the tornado ripped through a cluster of mobile homes and an adjacent neighborhood of brick homes Thursday morning. At least 12 people were hospitalized, including four children in critical condition, hospital officials said.

The tornado was part of a devastating line of thunderstorms that swept across the South, raising their two-day death toll to 12. The storms then headed north, causing some flooding and wind damage in the Mid-Atlantic.

In Maryland, emergency crews performed several water rescues as dozens of people were trapped in their vehicles in high or fast-moving water, said Montgomery Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer.

Three freight cars derailed in Bowie, Md., and investigators were trying to determine whether the storm caused the wreck, CSX Corp. spokesman Gary Sease said. The empty coal hoppers jumped off tracks shared with Amtrak trains, bringing down some power lines. No one was injured.

The power outage delayed passenger service in the Northeast corridor, Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said. Service was halted between Baltimore and Washington, Connell said, although trains were moving north and south of the region.

In New Jersey, the storm caused flight departure delays of more than two hours Thursday evening at Newark Liberty International Airport. Despite the high winds, there were few reports of power outages.

In North Carolina, Columbus County Sheriff Chris Batten said several of the dead were found within 200 yards of where the tornado touched down.

``We assume they were literally consumed by the tornado,″ he said.

When the tornado struck Riegelwood _ situated on the Cape Fear River about 20 miles west of Wilmington _ people learned of the storm from radio and television reports, because the area has no tornado sirens.

``There was no warning. There was no time,″ said Cissy Kennedy, a radiologist’s assistant who lives in the area. ``It just came out from nowhere.″

County Commissioner Sammie Jacobs said several mobile homes were demolished, and there were ``houses on top of cars and cars on top of houses.″

About 100 people in Riegelwood were left homeless by the storm, and dozens planned to sleep at a shelter established at a nearby elementary school.

The storms began Wednesday, unleashing tornadoes and winds that overturned mobile homes and tractor-trailers, uprooted trees and knocked down power lines across the South.

In Louisiana, a man died Wednesday when a tornado struck his home. In South Carolina, a utility worker checking power lines Thursday during the storm was electrocuted. Two people died in car crashes in North Carolina as heavy rain pounded the state.

The storm knocked out power to 45,000 customers in North Carolina, but the electricity was back on in most places by mid-afternoon Thursday.

___

Associated Press Writer Mike Baker in Raleigh contributed to this report.

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