KENLY, N.C. — A cluster of strong thunderstorms produced tornadoes as severe weather swept across central North Carolina early Saturday, killing two people and destroying at least half a dozen homes.
A woman was found dead amid the rubble of her home in the Johnston County community of Kenly, about 35 miles southeast of Raleigh, said state police spokeswoman Patty McQuillan.
The only thing left standing was the woman's front porch.
In neighboring Wilson County, authorities said a child was killed. A third person authorities thought was missing had been accounted for.
Residents emerged at daybreak to find their homes in ruins, cars flipped over and debris strewn about. Several injuries also were reported.
Officials said the storm knocked down trees and power lines in half a dozen counties.
"It was pretty massive destruction," Johnston County emergency management coordinator Derrick Duggins said. "It goes to show the magnitude of what natural weather can do."
Kenly residents picked through the debris of Mark Stephenson's one-story brick home, which was leveled.
Family and friends piled up mattresses, took pictures of the damage and filled garbage bags with trash.
The wind tossed family portraits into the woods some 200 yards away.
The skeleton of a new camper the Stephensons had just bought rested nearby.
Half of Stephenson's home was flattened, while a tree had fallen through the other half, onto his 19-year-old daughter's bedroom. She was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
"It's hard to believe, it's hard to take in," Stephenson said. "We've got our lives and our health, so we're good to go."
His 14-year-old son, Hunter, pointed to what used to be his bedroom -- now just a pile of bricks and beams.
Hunter said his bedroom was being remodeled and he had been sleeping in the living room.
"I'm lucky," he said. "It's crazy -- if I would have been in there, I would have been dead."
Three homes away, Stacey Franks, 31, checked on her 78-year-old father.
Two large trees had missed falling on his mobile home by a few feet.
His tractor-trailer had been flipped on its side.
"His nerves are really damaged. He's just upset," Franks said of her father. "I just can't believe this has happened."
Authorities did not immediately release the names or ages of those killed.
U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who represents the area, surveyed the damage Saturday, saying that beams in the dead woman's home were like spaghetti.
Gov. Michael F. Easley planned to tour the area today or Monday after local officials had assessed the damage.
A Red Cross Shelter was opened at a church in Kenly. National Weather Service officials were sending crews to survey the damage.
The weakened storm system moved northeast to the Virginia coast.