RIEGELWOOD, North Carolina (CNN) -- At least five people were killed Thursday after a tornado ripped through a trailer park in a small town west of Wilmington, Columbus County Sheriff Chris Batten told CNN affiliate WECT.
The sheriff said several mobile homes were demolished and others were torn off their foundations by the high winds.
CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said it appeared the tornado touched down on the western side of Columbus County sometime after 6 a.m. ET and "was on the ground for some time."
In Wilmington, Red Cross spokeswoman Jana Zehner told CNN teams were being assembled to go to the area as soon as Columbus County Emergency Services officials determined it was safe.
There is still a tornado warning in the area, she said.
Authorities have blocked off roads leading to the site of the tornado touchdown, according to residents who live nearby.
A man who answered the phone at a gas station on Highway 87 said the twister "just took a swath right out of that trailer park, right down the middle of it."
The storm left thousands without power, according to The Associate Press.
The same storm system tore through other Southern states on Wednesday.
High winds flattened a skating rink in Montgomery, Alabama, where more than 30 preschoolers were playing.
Two children suffered minor injuries when the building collapsed, according to authorities.
Police said four adults and 31 children were inside FunZone, which houses a skating rink, a daycare and play areas for kids.
Video from the scene showed crumpled metal rafters with only shreds of a roof clinging to them.
In cold season severe weather outbreaks, tornadoes are often embedded in lines of precipitation, making them difficults to see. The strong forcing for the thunderstorms, provided by powerful wintertime low pressure systems, often allows the storms to continue well after dark.