A furious storm system that kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as softballs has claimed at least 35 lives on the rampage that began in Oklahoma days ago, then smashed across several southern States as it reached a new and deadly pitch in North Carolina and Virginia.

Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swaths of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported from the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the State.

Ten people were confirmed dead in Bertie County, said county manager Zee Lamb. At least three deaths were reported in Virginia.

Authorities warned the toll was likely to rise further on Sunday as searchers probed shattered homes and businesses.

The storm claimed its first lives on Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Seven people each were killed in Arkansas and Alabama, two people in Oklahoma and one person in Mississippi, authorities have said.

In North Carolina, Governor Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency after reporting fatalities in at least four counties. But she declined to immediately confirm an exact number of deaths. She said the 62 tornadoes reported were the most since March 1984, when a storm system spawned 22 twisters in the Carolinas that killed 57 people — 42 in North Carolina — and injured hundreds.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in North Carolina who has been through this horrible day,” said Ms. Perdue.

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