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Wizdom
17-04-11, 22:02
Death toll at 39 from U.S. storms, nuclear plant shut

Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane
By Ned Barnett

RALEIGH, North Carolina | Sun Apr 17, 2011 3:54pm EDT

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - The death toll from three days of severe storms and tornadoes in the southern United States rose to at least 39 on Sunday, with hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed in North Carolina alone, weather and emergency officials said.

North Carolina accounted for the bulk of casualties and property losses, with 22 people killed and more than 80 others injured. Significant damage was reported in at least 15 counties and power was out to more than 200,000 people.

Seven additional deaths reported since Thursday in four other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma -- brought the overall death toll from the storms to 39.

"I would expect that total to rise, unfortunately," AccuWeather.com meteorologist Andy Mussoline told Reuters on Sunday.

Dominion Virginia Power said the two nuclear reactors at its Surry Power Station in southeastern Virginia shut down automatically on Saturday when an apparent tornado touched down and cut off an electrical feed to the station.

Backup generators operated normally and both units "are in safe and stable condition," the utility said in a statement.

"No release of radioactive material has occurred beyond those minor releases associated with normal station operations. These minor releases are below federally approved operating limits, and pose no threat to station workers or the public," the Dominion Resources Inc company said.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah confirmed on Sunday no radiation was released during the storm and shutdown. "Everything worked the way it should," he said.

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency on Saturday night, and a dozen counties declared local states of emergency.

Statewide, high winds destroyed 60 homes and damaged 400 others, said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.

Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina was one of the hardest-hit areas, with 14 storm-related deaths reported there by the National Weather Service. The weather bureau confirmed at least eight tornadoes throughout the state on Saturday.

"Many communities have downed trees, downed power lines and a significant amount of debris on the roadways," Doug Hoell, the head of the Emergency Management Division, said late Saturday.

Progress Energy, the main utility in eastern North Carolina, said other counties bearing the brunt of the storms were Lee, Harnett and Wake, which includes Raleigh, the state capital.

Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes said as of 9 a.m. Sunday, the utility had 78,000 homes and businesses still without power.

At the peak of the storm at about 4 p.m. Saturday, Hughes said 220,000 customers were without electricity. He said 1,000 utility workers were out making repairs and that most customers should have their power restored by midnight Monday.