NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The death toll in the southern United States has risen to 46 as emergency crews continue to sift through the rubble left behind by the powerful tornadoes that tore through 14 states, downed power lines and damaged hundreds of buildings and homes, according to reports.

In one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever recorded, 241 twisters were reported in 14 states from Thursday through Saturday, according to UPI.
Tornadoes and flash flooding have left several people dead in Virginia, and crews are continuing to assess damage that severe weekend storms caused across a number of southern U.S. states.

Fierce windstorms in North Carolina left 22 people dead and about 130 others injured, Reuters reported. More than 130 homes were destroyed and another 700 significantly damaged by Sunday evening, Reuters reported, citing the governor's office.

Major damage was reported in 26 North Carolina counties and power outages affected more than 200,000 people.

"Despite all the damage, the thing we heard the most today was how grateful people are to be alive," North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue told reporters on Sunday.

Progress Energy ( PGN), the main utility in eastern North Carolina, said 220,000 customers were without electricity at the peak of the storm, and that more than 300,000 lost power at one time or another. Crews were working to restore service to the remaining 46,000 customers without power in central and eastern North Carolina.

In Virginia, there were four confirmed deaths and reports of three unconfirmed deaths, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Virginia emergency officials said that 177 structures had been damaged by the severe weather.

Seven people died as a result of powerful storms in Alabama, seven died in Arkansas and one died in Mississippi. Two people were killed by a tornado in Oklahoma.

The outbreak started in Oklahoma on Thursday and moved east across the deep south on Friday, leaving a path of destruction. The three days of severe storms and tornadoes were due to a powerful jet stream, with high humidity and a strong cold front acting as contributing factors.

The Weather Channel reported that there have been more tornado deaths in the three days of storms than in all of 2009.

While the stormy weather finally ceased on Sunday, weather forecasts said more tornadoes could threaten the southern plains and Ohio Valley in the coming week.

--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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