Eastern North Carolina cleaned up Saturday from multiple twisters that left at least 16 people injured, about 200 homes damaged or destroyed and thousands of customers without power. Now millions others are bracing for tornadoes and thunderstorms expected to descend in areas from north Texas to South Dakota Sunday.
The National Weather Service in Morehead City, N.C., indicated that one of the tornadoes was EF3 – the strongest to strike the country thus far this year. It tore through Whichards Beach in Beaufort County at about 7:40 p.m. Friday, according to The Weather Channel.
"You can track the tornado by the damage," Beaufort County Emergency Management Director John Pack was quoted as saying. "It left a lot damage behind in its approximately five to 10 minutes on the ground."
Pack said the storm, about 300 yards wide and on the ground for 10 miles, damaged or destroyed around 200 homes and injured 16 people. About 8,000 people were without power at one point, he added.
At least three other EF2 tornadoes slammed the region Friday.
Among the affected areas were northwest of the Statesville area and Elizabeth City and the nearby Halls Creek area.
"It's pitch black so it's hard to see but there are power lines on the road, extensive flooding, no power & lots of sirens," Sarah Kane of Richmond, Va., who was in Elizabeth City Friday evening, was quoted as saying.
Weather officials say more tornadoes and thunderstorms are likely to hit a thousand-mile stretch from north Texas to South Dakota Sunday.
"We continue to expect a significant multi-day severe weather risk this weekend into Monday. This will be across the central and southern Plains on Saturday/Sunday and into the Mississippi Valley and mid-South on Monday. In addition to large hail and damaging winds, some strong tornadoes are possible," the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center said.
The start of the tornado season this year has been the quietest since 1953 because of lingering cold. There has been no tornado deaths so far in 2014 - the safest start since 2002.
However, with temperatures rising, more severe weather is likely around the country. Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert at the Channel, told NBC News that the weather pattern "is beginning to get more favorable" for twisters.