Seventeen people are dead after vicious storms and howling winds tore through the Midwest and Deep South leaving a trail of destruction in their path.
The death toll from the latest devastation in Alabama, which killed at least seven, combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma made it the nation's deadliest storm of the season.
Henley Hollon, whose 65-year-old brother lived across the street from him in the Boone's Chapel community about 25 miles from Montgomery, said he had been watching the weather forecast on television - and thought the worst was over when the winds started to pick up.
Parked: An SUV stands on its end after the violent storms tore through the Midwest and Deep South leaving 17 people dead
‘It got up real fast. The lights went out,’ he said. ‘We had to feel our way into the hall. It lasted less than a minute.’ He then went outside to check on his yard and walked across the road to check on his brother.
‘When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone,’ Henley Hollon said. Two mobile homes had been ripped from their foundations, and all that remained were wooden steps and flowerbeds.
‘The trailer was anchored down and the anchors are gone,’ said Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger. ‘But the steps are still there and the blooms are still on the flowers.’
A state of emergency was declared for the whole state of Alabama after four separate tornadoes hit over the span of about five to six hours.
Awesome power: A Bible and hymnals are all that remain of Boone's Chapel Baptist Church in Autauga County
The storms began late on Thursday in Oklahoma, where at least five tornadoes touched down and two people were killed. The system then pushed into Arkansas, killing seven more. Dozens of others were hurt.
By midday on Friday, the storms had marched into Tennessee, Louisiana and later into Georgia. At least three twisters touched down in Mississippi, where a state of emergency was declared in 14 counties, causing widespread damage but only one serious injury.
The hardest hit was Clinton, a city of about 26,000 people just west of Jackson, the state capital. At least seven people were taken by ambulance to hospitals with injuries.
Devastation: A Lowes Home Improvement employee stands by a truck on its side in the car park of the razed store in Sanford, North Carolina
The worst damage in Oklahoma was in the small town of Tushka, where residents wondered what would become of their community after a twister damaged or destroyed nearly every home along the two main streets.
Four people from Tushka have been confirmed dead while over two dozen have been reported injured so far, with three in critical condition. Two of those from the town that died were two sisters in their 70s, Salvation Army Captain Ric Swartz said. The National Weather Service has reported that two people died when a tree fell on top of their mobile home.
According to Gilbert Wilson, Atoka County's emergency management director, witnesses reported that two tornadoes merged to form the single twister that destroyed the town.
Authorities have shut down several roads in the area, which are now littered with downed power lines and flipped over semi-trailers. Emergency workers are working to clear the area's roads as fast as possible so motorists can return home to assess the damage to their property.
The storm also wreaked havoc across other parts of the Midwest, as two people in western Arkansas died early Friday after a tree fell directly onto their house, and a man in central Arkansas died after his camper was also
Path of destruction: A map of the affected states show the extent of the devastation that has been felt in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma
Flattened: Homes in the LaGrange subdivision, Fayetteville, North Carolina, look like they're made out of cardboard after the tornado ripped through
Flattened: The worst damage in Oklahoma was in the small town of Tushka where nearly every home along the two main streets was destroyed
The two dead are a 24-year-old male and an 18-month-old girl, according to Sheriff's Lieutenant James Martin of Garland County, Arkansas.
The people of Tushka took refuge in cellars of friends and family and in churches as the storm slashed through the town, completely demolishing the local high school. On some streets every single home has been destroyed.
The Atoka Trailer Manufacturing plant in Atoka, Arkansas was also destroyed in the storm. Plant owner Ryan Eaves said that is will cost millions to rebuild the plant where 60 people work.
Smashed: A truck is seen covered in rubble outside a school in Tushka, Oklahoma following the storms
Destruction: The storms began late on Thursday in Oklahoma where at least five tornadoes touched down and two people were killed
Twisted: Heartbroken students look at what is left of their Tushka's public school after a large tornado destroyed it
'Twenty-four hours ago this was an 80-thousand square foot heavy manufacturing facility, at the moment it's a pile of rubble. This building was a shining bright spot for the community. To think it could be overtaken like this is overwhelming,' Eaves said.
When the storm sirens tore through the town Jennifer Buffington, a mother of seven, fled into a storm cellar along with her husband and their children. ‘It felt like a bomb,’ said Buffington of the storm, adding that ‘everything in my house looks like shambles.
Carnage: The people of Tushka took refuge in cellars of friends and family and in churches as the storm slashed through the town, completely demolishing the local high school
Easton Crow, a 17-year-old junior at Tushka High School who was attending a basketball game in the nearby town of Hugo when the storm struck the town, says he is devastated at the loss of his school, which was built in 1918.
‘I'm heartbroken. This is where most of us grew up. I'm just in awe that in a few seconds memories that have been built were taken,’ Crow said.
Softball sized hail – approximately 4 inches in diameter – fell from the sky in several areas in western Arkansas, according to The National Weather Service.
Though there were several deaths and many injured, some residents narrowly escaped certain doom.
Two people were inside a camper in Franklin County, Arkansas when powerful winds swept a camper of its wheels, but the two were lucky enough to escape the incident unscathed.
Tushka resident Kimberly Gabriel said that all of the glass from her windows blew into her house and her fence has been knocked over. But her house still stands. ‘I consider that we're lucky, our house is here. Some people don't have that,’ Gabriel said.