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Temperatures Plunge as Storm Cleanup Begins

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RALEIGH — El Nino struck again in North Carolina over the weekend, but now a more normal weather pattern has taken over, to the dismay of those who thought spring had arrived. Temperatures dropped considerably by Monday evening, even as some NC residents struggled toto clean-up or dry out.

Sunday's heavy rain pushed creeks and rivers to their limits again, stopping traffic and threatening homes. In North Raleigh, higher ground didn't matter much. A hill near the Target store on Lynn Road was practically washed away.

Those who weren't hurt by the water probably were troubled by strong gusts of wind and a possible tornado. Many homes were damaged across the southeastern part of the state.

When a tornado blew through Robeson County at about 3:30 Sunday afternoon, a mother and her 1-year-old daughter were inside their mobile home. The home was ripped off its foundation and flipped upside-down, yet both of them were able to walk away with only minor injuries.

Amy Pittman, 21, says she heard the sound, then everything started rolling.

Pittman says it's amazing they survived.

While Pittman's home is topsy-turvy, that of the Strickland family was torn into millions of pieces. Roger Strickland says he never understood what real devastation was.

Raymond Strickland sifted through debris looking for any irreplaceable items that might be left.

Much of what people are looking for, and sometimes finding, is hundreds of yards away from what were once their homes. In a spirit of community support, many who find photographs or mementos they don't recognize, go from home to home to see if someone can claim them.

National Weather Service investigators are now saying that Sampson County saw straightline winds early this morning -- not a tornado. The phenomenon is known as a downburst and can pack a powerful punch. One look at the damage proves that.

It took only minutes to turn the Bennett's mobile home to ruins.

The mobile home rolled over twice with the Bennetts inside. When the home stopped turning, William Bennett heard his baby son crying. His wife and son were pinned underneath a section of the wall.

The path of destruction is easy to see from the air. Debris is scattered for miles over fields, there are several overturned mobile homes and still others demolished.

The Hicks family was tending to their chickens when the storm blew through. Amazingly, no one was hurt and very few chickens were killed. Now, the family is starting to put things back together. Mary Susan Hicks says the storm was on them before they could react.

Less than a dozen mobile homes and barns were destroyed or damaged. Only a few people suffered minor injuries. Some families are being relocated by the Red Cross.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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