Obama declares North Carolina disaster area

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 11:11 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a federal disaster declaration for North Carolina, which has been battered by storms, tornadoes and flooding.

At least 45 people were killed across the southern United States in three days of storms last week, nearly half of them in North Carolina alone, the highest storms-related death toll in more than three years.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue had asked for a federal disaster declaration for 18 counties in her state.

Obama's action makes federal funding available to individuals affected by severe weather in 10 counties, and allows state and local governments to obtain funding in another eight counties.

On Tuesday, as severe storms spread to other parts of the country, the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for southwest Missouri including Branson, and for parts of eastern Oklahoma where a tornado could be produced "at any time" as well as "hail up to baseball size."

The weather service also issued a tornado warning for northwest Arkansas.

Conditions were also favorable for tornadoes to develop in northeast Texas through parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois through Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said.

Farther north, a band of wet heavy snow was expected from northern Iowa, through southeast Minnesota, and from southeast to northeast across Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said. Up to 8 inches of snow were expected in Wisconsin.

South central North Dakota received some snow on Tuesday and the National Weather Service was forecasting wet and heavy snow for southwestern North Dakota.

Flooding is widespread in North Dakota as snow slowly melts on ground saturated from last year's rains. It is most severe in the Red River Valley, which extends into Minnesota.

In sharp contrast, drought conditions in Texas were producing wildfires moving toward more populated areas on the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, officials said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, Barbara Goldberg, Rod Nickel and David Bailey)