Dozens of tornadoes ripped across southern US states causing severe damage and killing at least 45 people, officials said on Wednesday.
Twenty-four people were killed in Tennessee, thirteen in Arkansas, and seven in Kentucky, officials in the three states said. CNN reported one fatality in Alabama.
More than 50 tornadoes touched down as a series of thunderstorms rare for the winter season rolled through the region late Tuesday and early on Wednesday.
Tornado watches were in effect as of 1400 GMT in parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and the western Florida panhandle, the National Weather Service said.
“It took the whole house,” a woman told CNN. “I just got up and I thought it was a fire. We got up and there's no house left.”
Twisters knocked down a police radio tower, crushed the wall of a shopping mall and damaged a hangar at the Memphis airport, said Laura McPherson of the Tennessee Emergency Management Area.
“We're still trying to assess all the damage now that the sun is coming up,” she said, as storms continued to threaten the eastern part of the state, around Chattanooga.
Sixteen students were rescued from dormitories that collapsed at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and three were critically injured, she said.
The Red Cross moved 50 people trapped at a retirement center in Madison County to a shelter.