RALEIGH — An estimated 63 homes in Raleigh were destroyed and another 184 suffered major damage Saturday during a violent storm system, city officials said this afternoon.
Mayor Charles Meeker said it was fortunate the storm blew through during the afternoon, when residents could get warnings from TV and radio.
"Had this happened at night, it could well have been a different situation," Meeker said at an afternoon press briefing, flanked by city officials and City Council members.
Raleigh officials announced an initial damage estimate of $3 million to $5 million and said they expect to receive federal aid through FEMA.
"I have no doubt we're going to qualify, but they have to certify that it's going to take place," said City Manager Russell Allen.
State officials said Sunday that the death toll from the storms is now at least 21, making it the deadliest thunderstorm system to hit the state in more than two decades. At least 130 people were injured.
In northeast Raleigh, three children - Daniel Quistian, 9, and cousins Kevin Coronado, 3, and Osvaldo Coronado, 8, - were crushed by a falling tree at Stony Brook North Mobile Home Park. A fourth child, a 6-month-old girl, is in "very serious" condition, Police Chief Harry Dolan said this afternoon.
Stony Brook will remain closed, but residents will briefly be allowed into their homes this afternoon to collect belongings, Dolan said.
"There are trees still there causing us great concern," he said.
All major thoroughfares in Raleigh are now open with the exception of Edenton Street, where crews are still clearing downed power lines, officials said. Less than 40 traffic signals in Raleigh were without power as of 2 p.m. Monday.
The city has created a website - RaleighNC.gov/stormhelp - to provide information on how to donate food, supplies and clothing. Residents can also call 996-6100 to learn about volunteer opportunities.
Roughly 30 city crews were called in on Sunday to begin debris removal. These crews are working 24-hours a day in 12-hour shifts.
"We really didn't have to call many people in," said Dolan. "They were all on their way."
Officers are patrolling by car and foot in areas of the city where looting is a concern, Dolan said.
Many of the hardest hit areas are served by overhead utilities, and many of the down trees are entangles in electric lines. The city is working with Progress Energy to get these lines grounded so that crews can safely remove the debris and power can be restored.
The city is estimating the amount of storm debris that needs to be collected is at least 175,000 cubic yards. Once all the primary thoroughfares have been opened and power has been restored, the city will conduct a special debris collection for the hardest hit areas of Raleigh.
The City of Raleigh Yard Waste Center, 900 N. New Hope Road, was opened on Sunday to accept all storm debris. The normal disposal fee has been waived for all home owners and contractors. For more information, contact the yard waste center at 250-2728.
Residents may take debris to any one of Wake Countys 11 convenience centers. There is no charge.
Raleigh's public buildings escaped serious damage, Allen said. The Progress Energy Performing Arts Center suffered some minor damage, and a tree fell on a fire truck, he said.