Riegelwood, NC – Long lines of cars began passing slowly along highway 87 as soon as officials reopened the route through the heart of Thursday's tornado damage.
What they found where piles of debris, clothes wrapped around limbless pines, the cracked shells of mobile homes, and empty foundation pads, all standing starkly in the bright November sunshine.
One nearby resident, who heard the tornado passing like a train through his front yard, compared the devastation to the fate of the World Trade Center -- one day, all of these buildings have always been here, the next, everything's gone.
Among the crowds of media, state and local officials joined residents and insurance adjustors to tour the damage.
Senator Elizabeth Dole with residents and taking in the damage first hand.
"Oh, it breaks my heart. You know, I was president of the Red Cross for about 8 years, and I've seen many war zones. Here's another one."
Governor Mike Easley started his tour of the destruction in the air, looking down from one of the many helicopters overhead.
Easley announced that while the tornado didn't damage enough homes to qualify as a federal disaster area, he is working to get aid to those affected by the storm.
"We're going to do everything we can to try and make folks whole as soon as possible, to try to disrupt their lives as little as possible, try to keep the kids in school, keep people working, and we're going to try to do it as fast as we possibly can."
Twelve people are still hospitalized, including four children in critical condition.
About a hundred people were displaced by the tornado; almost all of them have found shelter with friends and family.