A dozen tornadoes raked Tennessee early Saturday, pitching parked cars 300 feet and injuring nearly four dozen people.
Metal utility poles designed to withstand 160 mph winds were bent and snapped. Trees that were not broken or uprooted were covered with bits of shredded debris.
No deaths were reported.
“That’s a real miracle when you look at the damage,” said Todd Womack, spokesman for Erlanger Medical Center.
Furious thunder and hail, followed by deafening wind, sent Kelly and Trudy Smith into the basement with their 10-year-old son Shannon. Minutes later, a pine tree crashed through the roof upstairs.
“I was glad I recognized the sound and we could run for cover,” Kelly Smith said. “You know it’s coming and you can’t do nothing. You just dive down and pray to God it doesn’t take you. We’re just lucky to be alive.”
The same broad weather system produced a half-dozen tornadoes in Kentucky late Friday, killing two people. Violent thunderstorms also caused scattered damage Friday in Indiana.
Power was out most of the day for about 20,000 customers.
Some of the worst damage was at the 180-unit Hickory Villa Apartments in Chattanooga, where about half of the units were demolished. Vehicles parked at the complex were picked up and dropped 300 feet away - on the other side of 45-foot-tall buildings.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said 12 tornadoes touched down shortly after midnight. Property damage was reported in 12 counties.
In Kentucky, at least five twisters were reported in six rural counties, the National Weather Service said. The storms injured 26 people, damaged or destroyed nearly 150 homes and downed power lines, state officials said. Two people were killed.
Marsha Cook’s mobile home in south-central Kentucky tumbled 600 feet away from its foundation while she and her three children hid in her mother’s basement five miles away.
“They had to bring in a front-end loader to carry it off the road,” she said. “All that was intact was the floor. Everything else was just twisted and destroyed.”
Thunderstorms and a tornado hit Indiana late Friday, ripping roofs off an apartment complex and causing heavy damage. No serious injuries were reported.