At least three dead in North Carolina tornado

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Icicles form on a bush in downtown Houston, Texas this week amid a nationwide cold snap

A tornado killed at least three people when it ripped through the state of North Carolina, officials said Tuesday, while elsewhere much of the US remained gripped by a record cold snap.

The twister tore into the southern part of the state late Monday, particularly impacting two coastal communities in Brunswick County.

"At this time, there are three confirmed fatalities and 10 confirmed injuries," Brunswick County Emergency Services said in a statement.

"It is estimated that at least 50 homes were affected in the incident and several power lines were damaged, causing power outages."

Photos and video broadcast by US media showed downed trees, flattened homes and smashed cars.

Sheriff John Ingram told a press conference there would "be a long recovery process".

"This is something unlike I've ever seen," he said, cited by US media.

Elsewhere across the United States, much of the country remained gripped by a deadly cold snap fueled by frigid Arctic air that has brought record low temperatures.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said a new winter storm was emerging in the Southern Plains area -- which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The NWS on Monday warned of an "unprecedented and expansive area of hazardous winter weather" from coast to coast, with more than 150 million Americans under winter weather advisories.

The freezing conditions have killed at least 10 people and have particularly afflicted regions unaccustomed to snow and sleet.

The PowerOutage.US tracker reported more than 2.7 million people were without power in Texas, where temperatures in the major metropolis of Houston dipped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius), well below average February lows of 34.

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