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Tornadoes Sweep Across the South

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A powerful storm system that started in Oklahoma last Thursday blew through the southern United States over the weekend, spawning nearly 250 reported tornadoes, damaging thousands of structures, and claiming at least 45 lives across six states. Parts of North Carolina were particularly hard-hit by at least 60 tornadoes -- one of which destroyed a Lowe's hardware store with more than 100 employees and customers inside, all of whom survived. The storm system also brought flash flooding and large hailstorms, damaging roads, downing power lines and cell-phone towers, and hampering rescue and clean-up efforts. Gathered here are images of the destruction. [32 photos]

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Chris Nelson hugs his daughter Andrea Nelson, 15, in the parking lot in front of Lowe's hardware store in Sanford, North Carolina, on Sunday, April 17, 2011, a day after a tornado destroyed the building while the Nelsons were inside shopping. The Nelsons returned Sunday to reclaim their truck, back right. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)
Chris Nelson hugs his daughter Andrea Nelson, 15, in the parking lot in front of Lowe's hardware store in Sanford, North Carolina, on Sunday, April 17, 2011, a day after a tornado destroyed the building while the Nelsons were inside shopping. The Nelsons returned Sunday to reclaim their truck, back right. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)
In this April 16, 2011 photo provided by Bonnie Burkett, a tornado moves through Colerain, North Carolina. The photographer, Richard Burkett, snapped the picture shortly before he and his wife took cover in a closet underneath their stairs. The tornado hit their barn and passed over their house seconds after the picture was taken. (AP Photo/Richard Burkett) #
This aerial photo taken Sunday, April 17, 2011 shows a house severely damaged by a tornado that ripped through Gloucester, Virginia, on Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Randall Greenwell) #
Mackayla Jones comforts a dog with a broken leg in Askewville, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011 after a tornado moved through the area Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #
A truck damaged by a tornado in Gloucester, Virginia, on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Steve Earley) . #
Wreckage of a destroyed house in Gloucester, Virginia. on Saturday, April 16 after a tornado passed through. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Randall Greenwell) #
Destroyed school buses sit among the rubble at Page Middle School, April 17, 2011 in Gloucester, Virginia. A tornado that barreled across Gloucester Saturday evening cut a mile-wide swath of destruction about 7 1/2 miles long from Coke to the Mathews County line, leaving three residents dead and more than 60 injured, said Sheriff Steve Gentry. (Jay Paul/Getty Images) #
The remains of a few band instruments sit among the rubble at Page Middle School April 17, 2011 in Gloucester, Virginia. (Jay Paul/Getty Images) #
Jeff Bass, right, comforts Kim Thomas as they stand in front of the destroyed Lowe's Home Improvement store after a tornado left several businesses in ruins on Saturday April 16, 2011 in Sanford, North Carolina. (AP Photo/The Sanford Herald, Wesley Beeson) #
This aerial photo shows buildings severely damaged by a tornado that ripped through Gloucester, Virginia on Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Randall Greenwell) #
A man inspects damage to his sister's car in Askewville, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011 after a tornado hit the area on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #
A tornado knocked down these large electric transmission towers on Valley Stream Dr. in Raleigh, North Carolina. on April, 2011. (AP Photo/News & Observer, Chris Seward) #
Clint Stanley (left) and Rob Oakley clear away the remains of a tree on top of a car, Sunday, April 17, 2011. The tree fell and crushed the car of Myra Pearson in the driveway of her house on Oleander Road in Raleigh when a tornado struck Raleigh, North Carolina. Saturday, April 16, 2011. (AP Photo/News & Observer, Scott Sharpe) #
Allison Cougill, center, helps sort through debris of her river cottage after a tornado swept through the area Saturday night in Deltaville, Virginia, Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) #
Tornado damage at the Lowe's Home Improvement Center in Sanford, North Carolina. Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Thomas Babb) #
Annina Purdy, who was inside the Lowe's hardware store in Sanford, North Carolina. the previous day when a tornado destroyed the building, returned to the store's parking lot on Sunday, April 17, 2011, to reclaim personal belongings from her car. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson) #
Hannah Rosser, 13, who suffered bruising to her ribs the previous day when a tornado hit Lowe's hardware store in Sanford, North Carolina, walks through the Lowe's parking lot on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson) #
A severe storm passes over east Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thursday, April 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, James Gibbard) #
This aerial photo taken Sunday, April 17, 2011 shows damage to Page Middle School by a tornado that ripped through Gloucester, Virginia, on Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Randall Greenwell) #
Clifton Perry looks through debris in Colerain, North Carolina, Monday, April 18, 2011 after a tornado hit the area on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #
People walk through a neighborhood to assess the damage after a tornado ripped through the Cottonade neighborhood on Saturday, April 16, 2011 near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Andrew Craft) #
A vehicle rests on a tree after an overnight tornado in Tushka, Oklahoma, Friday, April 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) #
Patrick Woods, a freshman at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. picks up a flag on the remains of structures on the softball field at Pine Forest High School on Saturday, April 16, 2011 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Michael Conti) #
Shredded pink insulation, downed power poles and other debris fills the street after a tornado in Raleigh, North Carolina, April 17, 2011. (Reuters/Chris Keane) #
Nathaniel Ramey, left, comforts Megan Hurst at her grandmother's house in Askewville, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011 after a tornado struck Saturday. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #
An aerial photo shows some of the approximately 30 houses severely damaged or destroyed by a tornado in the St. Andrews neighborhood just south of Sanford, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Thomas Babb) #
Ben Haigerne tosses a part of a tree from the top of a storage shed outside a home after a tornado in Raleigh, North Carolina April 17, 2011. (Reuters/Chris Keane) #
Alicia Brinley pulls an untouched cowboy hat out of the tornado debris where a horse arena once stood on her family farm at the Misty Creek Ranch in Sanford, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo/The Sanford Herald, Wesley Beeson) #
Only stairs and flowers remain Saturday, April 16, 2011 after severe winds tore a mobile home off it's lot late Friday night in Boone's Chapel, Alabama, in Autauga County. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Amanda Sowards) #
Bill Mosley shouts in surprise after seeing the china mostly intact in the cabinet in what remains of his dining room after a tornado passed through his Clinton, Mississippi neighborhood, Friday, April 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) #
Mary Grady sits in her neighbors yard where she rode out a tornado in Askewville, North Carolina, Sunday, April 17, 2011. Her home was destroyed in the storm. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #
A horse stands in a pasture surrounded by crumpled metal shorn off a shed, right, by high winds, Saturday, April 16, 2011 in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Several farm structures were damaged by high winds, and residents suspect that a tornado was responsible. (AP Photo/The Daily News-Record, Traci White) #

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