TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — Deadly storms tore through parts of the Southeast on Wednesday, killing at least five people, injuring several more and devastating homes and businesses.
A pre-dawn tornado in northeast Alabama killed three people in a Rosalie mobile home and critically injured a fourth victim. The same storm was blamed for destruction at a daycare center that injured several people, including children, Patrick Marsh, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service
The daycare center's operators, who live in a nearby mobile home, had sought shelter in the building, local officials said.
"Praying for the families of the 3 who died in storms in Jackson Co.," Gov. Robert Bentley tweeted. "Grateful for all First Responders in our state."
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed the death of a couple in Polk County due to the severe storms. More than a dozen people were injured in Polk, McMinn and Marion counties, the department said. In Polk County, authorities went door-to-door to check on residents.
In Coffee County, a storm damaged at least five homes in Tullahoma, mostly caused by fallen trees, county emergency management Director Allen Lendley said.
"We have hundreds of trees damaged or down," he added.
Sharon Harwell sat in her neighbor's home there Wednesday morning, fighting back tears. A tree crashed through the roof of the brick home where she's lived since 1978. Several windows were missing. Her neighborhood was overwhelmed by fallen trees, and power lines snaked across wet roads.
She said her children were racing from their homes in Georgia and Alabama to be with her.
"I guess this makes my decision for me," she said. "I've got to get closer to one of them."
Tornado watches and warnings spread to Georgia on Wednesday afternoon. "GTENS ALERT: Georgia Tech is under a tornado warning," the Atlanta school tweeted. "Immediately seek shelter inside a building and tune to local media."
The school library staff tweeted video of dozens of students sitting on a hallway floor: "Tornado party in the ground floor of the Library! It’s lit!"
There were more than two dozen reports of tornadoes in five southeastern states, the Storm Prediction Center reported. The actual number of twisters could be lower, as there could have been more than one report from the same tornado. The National Weather Service sent teams Wednesday to assess the damage and determine the strength of the tornadoes.
"People don't think much about tornadoes in November, but it can be feast or famine for these storms this late in the year," Marsh said. "Any time you have loss of life, it's significant."
Marsh said severe storms began rolling through Louisiana on Tuesday afternoon. Some were "supercell" storms capable of igniting hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. As the storms tracked east-northeast, they became stronger. The first tornado sightings took place near Jackson, Miss., Marsh said.
According to the National Weather Service and Weather.com, a possible tornado in Noxubee County, Miss., trapped people inside a camp house on Ebenezer Church Road. Four homes were reportedly destroyed along the road.
By early Wednesday the system had become a wrecking ball, tearing through Alabama and Tennessee and uprooting trees, downing power lines and smashing buildings.
Bacon and Rice report for USA TODAY. Barchenger reports for The Tennessean