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US states braced for next round of severe weather

More severe storms have rolled through the Carolinas in the US, a day after some places were hit by snow, hail and heavy rain.

A severe thunderstorm watch remained in effect for many counties in central South Carolina, and high wind warnings were in effect in the mountains of North Carolina.

A special marine warning was issued for much of the South Carolina coast, warning residents and sailors of waterspouts that can overturn boats and produce dangerously high waves.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned Carolinas residents to keep radios and mobiles handy as the storms threatened to interrupt their sleep in the early hours.

The weather service said the devices would be needed to alert people to the possibility of torrential rains and possible tornadoes, which were expected to arrive overnight and last well after sunrise.

In advance of the storms, schools systems in central North Carolina announced delays to the start of classes to let the severe weather pass before students began their commute.

An initial round of storms across the south-east produced one large tornado and reports of more than a half-dozen smaller twisters. Trees were toppled and power lines were brought down in Georgia, while heavy rains drenched areas of Alabama and South Carolina.

The severe weather outbreak was the second to hit the South in less than a week, but no deaths or significant injuries had been reported.

A round of storms on Sunday and Monday killed five people, including a Mississippi woman who desperately called emergency services from a car that plunged into a rain-swollen creek.

Authorities in Johnston, South Carolina, a town of 2,300 that calls itself The Peach Capital of The World, reported a possible tornado there damaged about a dozen buildings.

Crews could not immediately check nearby peach orchards but authorities said a hard freeze in late March had already caused severe damage.

Johnston mayor Terrence Cullbreath said he opened a local armoury as a shelter and that lights were out and many streets were blocked by fallen trees. Thousands had lost power across the three states on Wednesday, with utilities struggling to keep up.

"We need power back," Mr Cullbreath said. "But there likely are more storms coming and they can't get the power back in bad weather."

In south-west Georgia, a powerful tornado that touched down at midday travelled some distance on the ground in rural Stewart County, National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Stellman said. It left downed power lines and trees on roads, officials said.

A suspected tornado touched down in south-eastern Alabama, before crossing into Georgia, forecasters said. All told, at least nine possible tornados had been reported across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as the day wore on.

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