NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A line of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes marched across the South on Friday, peeling away roofs, overturning cars and killing at least 11 people in Tennessee, officials said.
It was the second wave of violent weather to hit the state in less than a week. Last weekend, thunderstorms and tornadoes killed 24 people in the western part of the state and destroyed more than 1,000 homes and buildings.
The storms raked an area from northern Mississippi to northern Virginia as they moved to the northeast late Friday after developing from a low-pressure system in the central Plains.
Downtown Nashville was spared any damage, but the city's suburbs were hardest hit, with at least eight deaths. Three more people were killed in a rural area about 65 miles southeast of Nashville.
Fire Chief Joe Womack said three bodies were pulled from the wreckage of homes in a subdivision of Gallatin, about 24 miles northeast of the city.
Steven Davis, who lives about a block from the subdivision, said he ran to a neighbor's home to take shelter in a crawl space when he heard the storm approaching.
"When the tornado came through, the roof was off just like that," Davis said, snapping his fingers. Houses on each side of his street were destroyed.
"Our neighborhood is leveled," Davis said.
Diane Carrier was in the subdivision when her boyfriend called to warn her. She went to a laundry room and covered herself with pillows and bedding.
"The next thing you know, the lights went out and everything started shaking and rumbling," she said. "I could hear cracking and snapping, and that was the roof coming off. It took seconds, then it was over."
Tornadoes were also reported in the Nashville suburbs of Goodlettsville, Hendersonville and Ashland City, and in Holladay, about 90 miles west of Nashville. The storms flattened trees, knocked down power lines and damaged homes and other buildings.
Spotty communications made it difficult for emergency responders to get a full picture of the damage. Phone lines to authorities and most businesses were out of service.
Hospitals admitted at least 60 people with storm-related injuries and transferred at least nine critically injured patients to Nashville hospitals.
At Volunteer State Community College in the suburb of Gallatin, several people suffered cuts and scratches, spokesman Eric Melcher said.
Two campus buildings were severely damaged, Melcher said. Emergency workers searched other buildings in an attempt to account for all students.
John Stevens, a taxi driver who was visiting Volunteer State, said the building where he waited out the storm shook as the tornado passed over.
After the storm, he found his minivan had been thrown about 150 yards from its parking space. The vehicle was twisted and smashed to pieces.
"It's like some giant sat on it," he said.
Three car dealerships near the college were devastated, with 250 cars totaled.
In Cheatham County, just west of Nashville, Sheriff John Holder said the tornado passed over his office.
"I looked up and you can't believe the stuff that was in the air," he said.
About 10,000 utility customers were without electricity because the storm knocked over hundreds of lines. Some might not have power for a week.
"We have to rebuild the system," said Laurie Parker, a spokeswoman for Nashville Electrical Service.
In Kentucky, two homes were destroyed, possibly by a tornado.
In southern Indiana, the storms pelted some areas with golf ball-sized hail. High winds blew the roof off a country club and toppled a semitrailer.
Farther east, parts of West Virginia were lashed with heavy rain and winds, blowing the roofs off businesses and sending trees crashing into houses. More than 16,000 residents lost power.
The number of tornadoes in the United States has jumped dramatically through the first part of 2006 compared with the past few years, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.
Through the end of March, an estimated 286 tornadoes had hit the United States, compared with an average of 70 for the same three-month period in each of the past three years.
The number of tornado-related deaths was 38 before Friday's storms. The average number of deaths from 2003 to 2005 was 45 a year, the prediction center said.
Associated Press Writer Randall Dickerson contributed to this story from Ashland City.
On the Net:
Storm Prediction Center: www.spc.noaa.gov/climo