Large swaths of U.S. under threat of severe storms, tornadoes

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With tornado season here "the time to prepare is now," warns National Weather Service.

Severe storms are expected to develop across the Southern and Central Plains on Saturday night and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Damaging winds, large hail and even tornadoes are possible through Sunday in eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and southern Missouri, the government weather agency reported.

"With a severe weather event expected to start today and impact areas through Tuesday, the time to prepare is now," the agency said.

The extreme weather is expected to shift east on Monday and into the mid and lower Mississippi Valley. Flooding is also a possibility in parts of the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys.

The forecast comes after powerful thunderstorms and at least one reported tornado that raked the northern part of North Carolina. Beaufort, Chowan, Greene, Halifax, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties were affected by the storm.

Officials reported dozens of severely damaged or destroyed homes and some injuries, North Carolina Emergency Management officials reported. There were no fatalities.

[Update: 8:50 p.m. PDT, April 26: More than 325 North Carolina homes sustained significant damage or were destroyed by the tornado, said Julia Jarema, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Public Safety. Most of the homes were in Beaufort County. In addition, 25 people were injured, she said.]

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