Tornadoes Kill at Least 12 in Midwest

PHOTO: Terry Means tries to pull a go-cart back to a friends home in Henderson Ky., Feb. 29, 2012.
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Authorities in a wide swath of the Midwest continued to look for more victims from multiple tornadoes -- including the second most powerful EF4 -- that killed at least 12 people while they braced for yet more severe weather today.

Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., an arm of the National Weather Service, said that at least 16 tornadoes were reported from Nebraska and Kansas through to southern Missouri, up to Illinois and over to Kentucky. Over 300 reports of severe weather in the last 36 hours included golf ball size hail and damaging thunderstorm winds gusting over 80 mph.

The National Weather Service warns that the severe weather threat isn't over. The Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys may see another round of severe weather Thursday, the NWS says, while other meteorologists predict another strong system could hit Friday with the Midwest and South right in the bullseye.

Cities in the path of violent storms included Branson, Mo., which was severely struck on Wednesday, to Memphis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jackson, Miss., Atlanta, Cincinnati and Raleigh. The highest threat for damaging tornadoes today will be from Birmingham, Ala., to Nashville Tenn. and into Louisville Ky.

PHOTOS: Severe Weather Pummels the Midwest

Moving from Nebraska, across Kansas and Missouri and into Illinois, a twister struck the small town of Harrisburg, Ill., population 9,000, where it killed six residents -- four women and two men -- according to Lt. Tracy Felty of the Saline County Sheriff's Office.

Just before 5 a.m. Wednesday hurricane force winds slammed into Harrisburg, 50 miles southwest of Evansville, Ind., shredding homes and lifting entire buildings off foundations while carving a two mile path of destruction approximately two football fields wide.

"I can't believe the measure of damage it did to this building," one resident told ABC News. "I'm just glad that it happened at night and no one was at work."

Residents across the seven states where tornadoes touched down over the past 36 hours -- Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, and Indiana – are digging out and sharing their stories of surviving the storms that included the EF4 -- the second-highest rating given to twisters, which can see peak winds of 170 mph.

In Harveyville, Kan., Brian and Heather Norton's daughter was trapped after her bedroom ceiling collapsed.

"I was down in the basement and I'm screaming at him -- grab her, grab her, just grab her, " Heather Norton said.

"I pulled her out from under it. We went down to the basement and all the water started running through the floor. It sounded like a train," Brian Norton added.

Ferocious winds slammed Branson, the country music mecca, destroying a theater and sucking furniture out of this downtown Hilton hotel. The storm his at the height of the town's crucial tourist season.

The final casualty count in Branson remains unclear as sheriff officers moved from house to house to search for victims. Some 32 people were treated for injuries in at least one local hospital.

One person was killed in a trailer park in Buffalo, Mo., and 13 others were injured, while two more were reported dead in the Cassville and Puxico areas, according to The Associated Press.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued a state of emergency order Wednesday morning and shelters for displaced residents were opened throughout the state.

In Tennessee, three people died as the storms destroyed homes in Cumberland and Dekalb Counties, the AP reported.

In Kansas, the small town of Harveyville, just south of Topeka, was hit especially hard by a tornado that touched down just after 9 p.m. local time Tuesday.

"The town was taken out by about 40 percent of the buildings in the community," Sharon Watson, director of public affairs for the Kansas Adjutant General's Office told ABC News. "A significant amount of it has been destroyed. A lot of homes damaged, a lot of buildings down including a church and an apartment complex."

Officials added that one person trapped in a building had to be extricated from underneath debris and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

One man in Harveyville described the storm to ABC News as, "just like a shotgun went off."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback also declared a state of emergency after the storm hit and caused highway closings and downed power lines throughout the area.

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