Assessment and cleanup continued in North Carolina on Monday as the state recovered from a tornado outbreak which swept across the state on Saturday in which nearly two dozen people died, dozens of institutions and numerous homes were destroyed or damaged.

The state was the hardest hit by a series of storms creating 241 tornadoes that overran parts of the Midwest and the Southern parts of the nation over a period of three days. There were 45 total reported deaths in various states.

The estimated death toll in North Carolina was 22 as of late Sunday, Gov. Bev Perdue's office said, citing unconfirmed reports from local communities. About 130 people were reported injured, 130 homes were destroyed and more than 700 homes were damaged, according to the office.

At least 26 counties in the central and eastern part of the state have reported significant damage from tornadoes and severe winds. Bertie County in north eastern North Carolina was the hardest hit area, after a report of 14 deaths.

The county's toll was included among the seven other states which have been struck by severe weather over three days before Saturday. The number of fatalities attributed to storms now at least at 44.

President Barack Obama pledged to do whatever it takes to rebuild North Carolina on Sunday, according to Perdue's office.

 She declared a state of emergency for North Carolina on Sunday, which puts into place the state's emergency management plan and provides for resources needed to help communities. She also temporarily suspended restrictions on work hours for utility workers to allow for reports to power lines. Limits on driving hours for truck drivers were also suspended.

Despite all the damage, the thing we heard the most today was how grateful people are to be alive, she said.  I ask that everyone do what they can to support the Red Cross and local shelters, and to keep everyone affected in your prayers.

Purdue toured tornado damage in Raleigh on Sunday and will look at other areas on Monday.

The tornado outbreak on Saturday was reportedly the most serious of its type since a March 28, 1984 event which produced 22 tornadoes, killing 57 people, including 42 in North Carolina and 15 in South Carolina, while injuring another 800.

Federal officials have dispatched a coordinating officer to Raleigh.

Some schools, universities, and government offices were closed in the central part of the state, according to

At a Lowe's store in Sanford, just over 35 miles from Raleigh, manager Michael Hollowell saved dozens of lives by herding customers and employees to the windowless, fortified rear of the store at 3015 S. Horner Blvd, according to  Images showed the face of the store had completely collapsed.

Three of the people killed were family members in Colerain, according to Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb. They were Roy and Barbara Lafferty, and Barbara's mother, Helen White.