Tornadoes Whip Through South, at Least 12 Dead

Residents survive devastating storms by hiding in bathtubs, kitchens, cars.

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 26, 2010, 7:10 AM

April 26, 2010— -- The powerful storms that spawned dozens of tornadoes throughout the South and caused the deaths of at least 12 people left a stunning trail of destruction and heartache.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour described the aftermath as "the obliteration of a small community."

Officials have so far counted 61 tornadoes in nine states as the storm moved through Mississippi and into Florida and South Carolina Sunday.

In Mississippi, where an astounding 32 twisters were reported, residents said it looked as if the sky was falling as a tornado chased them down the road. Winds were clocked upward of 160 mph, and one tornado had a base one and a half miles wide.

"We just prayed the whole way through," said Chatawa, Miss., resident Regina Weeks, who survived the tornadoes by huddling into a small bathroom with four of her relatives.

"The tub area is the only place in our home where there is a ceiling on top of us," she said. "Only place in house that didn't have ceiling ripped off from on top of us."

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Barbour toured the damage from the sky. He grew up in one of the towns that was nearly destroyed.

"Very small area, but the destruction is just like this," he said. "It's just the obliteration of a small community."

In Yazoo City, Miss., Dale Thrasher was alone at the Hillcrest Baptist Church, making photocopies, when the tornado struck.

"The windows started blowing out, and I could hear the building cracking and shaking," he said.

Thrasher took cover under a small table near the church pulpit as debris swirled around him. The church organ was tipped over, and the copier he was using just barely missed him.

His only injury was a small cut on his hand.

"The Lord just protected that little area," he said.

"I was praying," he said. "It's just like he put his arms around me, and that table and sheltered me from that storm."