HENRYVILLE, Indiana - A string of violent storms killed more than 30 people in the United States on Friday as an early season tornado outbreak demolished small towns and cut off rural communities.
Massive thunderstorms, predicted by forecasters for days, threw off dozens of tornadoes, hitting the states of Kentucky and Indiana particularly hard. At least 34 people were killed in four states - Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio - but both the scale of the devastation and the breadth of the storms made an immediate assessment of the havoc's full extent all but impossible.
In Kentucky, the National Guard and state police headed out to search wreckage for an unknown number of missing. In Indiana, authorities searched dark county roads connecting rural communities that officials said "are completely gone."
In Henryville, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders, few recognizable structures remained.
Susie Renner, 54, said she saw two tornadoes barreling down on Henryville within minutes of each other. The first was brown from being filled with debris; the second was black. "I'm a storm chaser," Renner said, "and I have never been this frightened before."
A baby was found in a field in Salem, Indiana, about 16 kilometers north of New Pekin, where her family lives. The baby was in critical condition on Saturday at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, and authorities were still trying to figure out how she ended up alone in the field.
Friday's tornado outbreak came two days after an earlier round of storms killed 13 people in the Midwest and South, and forecasters at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had said the day would be one of a handful this year that warranted its highest risk level. By 10 P.M., the weather service had issued 269 tornado warnings. Only 189 warnings were issued in all of February.