Carolinas bracing for next round of severe weather

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Another line of severe storms rolled through the Carolinas early Thursday, a day after severe weather that produced snow, hail and heavy rains in some places.

A severe thunderstorm watch remained in effect for many counties in central South Carolina, and high wind warnings were in effect in the mountains of North Carolina. A special marine warning was issued for much of the South Carolina coast, warning residents and boaters of waterspouts that can overturn boats and produce dangerously high waves.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned Carolinas residents to keep weather radios and cellphones handy as the storms threatened to interrupt their sleep in the early hours Thursday. The weather service said the devices would be needed to awaken people to the possibility of torrential rains and possible tornadoes expected to arrive overnight and last well after sunrise.

In advance of the storms, schools systems in central North Carolina announced delays to the start of classes to let the severe weather pass before students began their commute.

An initial round of storms across the Southeast produced one large tornado and reports of more than a half-dozen smaller twisters. Trees were toppled and power lines were brought down in Georgia, while heavy rains drenched areas of Alabama and South Carolina.

The severe weather outbreak was the second to hit the South in less than a week, but no deaths or significant injuries had been reported as of Wednesday evening. A round of storms on Sunday and Monday killed five people, including a Mississippi woman who desperately called 911 from a car that plunged into a rain-swollen creek.

Authorities in Johnston, South Carolina, a town of 2,300 that calls itself The Peach Capital of The World, reported a possible tornado there damaged about a dozen buildings. Crews couldn’t immediately check nearby peach orchards but authorities said a hard freeze in late March had already caused severe damage.

Johnston Mayor Terrence Cullbreath said he opened a local armory as a shelter and that lights were out and many streets were blocked by fallen trees. Thousands had lost power across the three states Wednesday, with utilities struggling to keep up.

“We need power back,” Cullbreath said by phone. “But there likely are more storms coming and they can’t get the power back in bad weather.”

In southwest Georgia, a powerful tornado that touched down at midday traveled some distance on the ground in rural Stewart County, National Weather Service Meteorologist Keith Stellman said. It left downed power lines and trees on roads, said Sandra James, a sheriff’s office dispatcher.

A suspected tornado touched down in southeastern Alabama, before crossing into Georgia, forecasters said. All told, at least nine possible tornados had been reported across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as the day wore on.

In Alabama, the storm hit an area dotted with vacation and full-time homes around Lake Eufaula, damaging some homes and knocking down power lines and trees, said John Taylor with the Henry County Emergency Management Agency. Taylor also reported no deaths or injuries there.

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