Tornadoes, Snow, Floods Ravage Midwest and South

After surveying tornado damage in his state, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said, "It looks like the Lord took a Brillo pad and scrubbed the ground."

At least 55 people are now confirmed dead in the devastating storm system that spawned an estimated 80 tornadoes across five states Wednesday, splitting open shopping malls, leveling homes to their foundations and tossing cars around like toys.

In Castalian Springs, Tenn., a baby was discovered alive and unscathed in a field across from a demolished post office by two firefighters, early Thursday morning. The mother's body was found not far away a few hours earlier.

"He had debris all over him, but there were no obvious signs of trauma," Ken Weidner, Sumner County emergency management director, told The Associated Press.


On the same day as the tornadoes were spreading misery, the Great Lakes region was pummeled with a combination of snow — up to 20 inches in places — and severe flooding.

Flood warnings were issued again today in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York after three days of heavy rain and melting snow. In the town of Findlay, Ohio, the Blanchard River was expected to crest just five months after flooding displaced hundreds and caused millions of dollars in damage in the town.

In snow-choked Wisconsin, the governor declared a state of emergency after massive drifting paralyzed the state. The National Guard was called out to rescue motorists after Interstate 90 ground to a halt, triggering a 19-mile back up and leaving some 500 cars and trucks stuck.

One Lucky Refuge

In Atkins, Arkansas, Lucky Landing Road lived up to its name for one family.

"I pulled the door down, it sucked and I started crawling on the ground trying to find something to get ahold of to keep from being blown away, and just as I did the house fell on me and I knew if I didn't try to hold the wall up it would crush me and I would die," said Atkins resident Terri Thomas, who lost everything in the storm.

Memphis Miracle

Twisters that touched down in the Memphis area brought 130 mph winds. The Roberts family huddled together in what shelter they could find, protecting their 9-month-old baby Grady, and miraculously survived.

"We looked around and we saw the ceiling above us was cracked and we needed to get out of where we were, so we ran as fast as we could a few feet over and got into a bathtub, and we huddled there for the remaining couple minutes of the storm," said Memphis resident Josh Roberts, whose home was also destroyed by a tornado.

Jackson Ravaged

The National Weather Service says the tornado that flattened Union University in Jackson Tennessee was an EF4, packing winds of 170 mph.

"I couldn't stand up because the wind was so strong, and I was being dragged across the floor on my stomach and then I saw a gumball machine and I thought it was attached to the floor but it wasn't; by the time I almost made it to the door the building had collapsed," said Union University student Matt Taylor.

Snowstorms Slam Midwest

Extreme weather is still crippling the Midwest today.

In Gurnee, Ill., snow rendered patrol cars useless, and police officers were forced to resort to use snowmobiles "to respond to any emergency calls 'cause they can get there faster than vehicles can," Gurnee Police Commander Jay Patrick explained.

More than a foot of snow paralyzed parts of Iowa and Wisconsin.

With the snow falling at an inch an hour, entire fleets of plows could barely keep up. The blinding storm grounded an estimated one thousand flights at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

"I was supposed to get out here and go to Seattle and that's not happening," said Mike Elgarten, who was stranded at the airport. "Tried to go to Dallas, that's not happening. Tried to get back to New York, that's not happening."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.