The announcement Tuesday clears the way for residents to receive federal assistance.
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue on Tuesday officially asked President Obama to declare 18 counties that suffered tornado damage Saturday a disaster area.
A declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide low-interest loans or grants to tornado victims to help them repair their homes, pay medical costs, and rebuild their businesses. The Agriculture Department can provide low interest loans to help farmers.
"Many families have simply been devastated by these storms," Gov. Perdue said in a written statement. "As I visited with many of them during the past few days, I’ve pledged to them that we’re going to do all we can to help them get back on their feet as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I ask all North Carolinians to keep these survivors in your prayers, volunteer your time to help those in need, and donate money or goods as you are able."
Perdue's office said the official statewide death toll is now at 23. More than a 100 were hurt.
The National Weather Service in Raleigh said approximately 25 tornadoes, five of which packed winds in excess of 135 miles per hour, impacted at least 32 counties spread over the state.
State officials also activated the Governor’s Hotline Tuesday. People who want to volunteer or donate goods can call toll free (888) 835-9966. The hotline will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Donations can also be sent through the www.ncdisasterrelief.org website.