MADISONVILLE, Ky. - Tornadoes barreled across the Midwest and portions of the Southeast, knocking out electricity and damaging buildings in several states.
The storms killed at least one person.
Meteorologists said a cold front moving east collided with warm, unstable air to produce severe thunderstorms and funnel clouds across Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee. Tornadoes also were spotted in Indiana and Illinois.
"We heard a weird sound coming through, kind of a whistle," said Penny Leonard, 37, who sought shelter in the basement of a hospital in the western Kentucky town of Madisonville. "I thank God I'm safe."
In some parts of community, the roofs of homes were caved in, walls were blown out and entire buildings were blown off foundations. Some water pipes sticking from the ground gushed water.
Trees around the area were shorn off at the top, and chunks of wood were blown into sections of U.S. 41. Police cruisers and fire trucks lined the streets, setting up checkpoints.
Jayne Barton, a spokeswoman for the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, said 22 people were treated for storm-related injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to head trauma.
Lori King, public information officer for the Marshall County Emergency Management Services, said the coroner reported one storm-related death, but no other information was available Tuesday night.
In Tennessee, even Henry County's emergency officials had to scramble for shelter when their offices took a direct hit from a tornado. They moved into the county mayor's office in the courthouse in Paris, about 90 miles west of Nashville.
Brenda Magee, who lives in Paris and works at Mohon International, a furniture manufacturer, was just arriving at work when the storm system hit.
"They told us to get inside," she said. "We were there for about 10 minutes under tables, dust and everything swirling around. It was a big roar. We heard it hit."
Downed power lines and trees made many roads in the outlying areas of the county impassable, delaying searches by sheriff's deputies and officers for residents in the worst-hit areas.
"Numerous homes there were damaged, some completely destroyed," Henry County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Faye Scott said. "It's major destruction."
The Henry County Medical Center treated 13 patients and admitted two with non-life threatening injuries, mostly cuts and bruises, said Sandra Sims, hospital spokeswoman.
In Tennessee's Montgomery County, the hardest hit area was Cunningham, just south of Clarksville. Four mobile homes, a camper and two houses were destroyed, while the Cunningham Market had its roof caved in by a tornado.
"It looks like a war zone," said Ted Denny, spokesman for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.
Forecasters said Tuesday's conditions were similar to those that produced a tornado on Nov. 6 that caused 41 miles of damage from Kentucky into the Evansville, Ind., area and killed 23 people.
Back in Madisonville, Ronnie Austin, 59, returned to a home split in two and blown off its foundation. His wife crawled out of the rubble and was taken to the hospital.
Austin said he had a generator and flood light and planned to stay at the house all night.
"I got too much stuff floating around. I'm just going to stay here all night and go through it in the morning," Austin said.