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Why North Carolina, far from Tornado Alley, took brunt of big outbreak

North Carolina averages 19 tornadoes a year. More than 60 hit the state over the weekend, part of a 'family' of 243 tornadoes that spun across the South, killing at least 43.

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Emergency personnel enters Lowe's Home Improvement after it was hit by a tornado in Sanford, N.C., April 16. Homes and businesses were badly damaged Saturday by a severe storm system that whipped across North Carolina, bringing flash floods, hail and reports of tornadoes from the western hills to the streets of Raleigh.

Jim R. Bounds/AP

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In Sanford, N.C., a heads-up store manager is credited with saving 70 frightened shoppers as a tornado ripped off the roof of a Lowe's hardware outlet. In Raleigh, N.C., a tornado found its favorite victim, tearing apart most of a trailer park.

In Bertie County, N.C., 11 people died as twisters – progenies of an epic clash of atmospheric fronts – split trees, toppled cars, and blew apart homes, as Gov. Bev Perdue said, as if they were paper doll houses.

A rival to the "Super Tuesday" tornado outbreak in February 2008 that killed 56 people across four Southern states, this weekend's storm spawned 243 tornadoes from Oklahoma to Virginia. At least 45 people died during the tornado outbreak. North Carolina saw the greatest human toll, with 22 confirmed dead, and search and rescue teams still combing a huge impact area for more victims.

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Hundreds more were injuried, many seriously, as a "family" of twisters spun out of a severe disturbance caused by a fast-moving, low-level front being undercut by colder winds coursing through the upper atmosphere.

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