Gov. Bev Perdue was attending a horse race in Kentucky on Saturday, visiting with old friends and that state's Democratic governor as a line of deadly storms swept across North Carolina.
When she learned of the extent of damage from the tornadoes, she cut the trip short and returned to Raleigh Saturday evening, according to Perdue spokesman Mark Johnson.
Perdue's whereabouts was something of a mystery Saturday as there was no appearance or public statement from the governor in the hours after the storm.
The governor was not present at the 8 p.m. media briefing and state Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell indicated he had not yet spoken directly with her.
There was also no indication of whether Perdue would officially declare a state of emergency, an order that allows the state to seek federal disaster aide and permits large supply and utility trucks to enter the state to help in the rescue and cleanup.
Shortly after 9 p.m., about 6 hours after tornadoes ripped through Raleigh and the surrounding area, Perdue communications director Chrissy Pearson said that Perdue had been out of the state attending to a "family obligation."
Pearson refused to say exactly where the governor was, where she had been or when she was expected to return to the state capital.
Johnson clarified on Sunday that Perdue was in Lexington, Ky., visiting with fellow Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
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