A swarm of tornadoes ripped across the U.S. midsection on Friday, killing at least six people in the hard-hit state of Indiana and splintering homes, damaging a prison and tossing around vehicles across the region.
At least six people were confirmed dead in two southern Indiana counties, and there were reports of three other possible tornado-related deaths including one in the town of Henryville, where television images showed homes blown apart.
"We are no match for Mother Nature at her worst," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said in a statement, adding that he would visit the stricken southeast corner of the state on Saturday.
CNN aired images showing rescue workers in Indiana picking through one splintered house, residents sifting through the ruins of a home, and a school bus thrown into a building. Several large warehouse-like structures appeared to have their roofs ripped off.
Major Chuck Adams of the Clark County Sheriff's office said there was extensive damage to a school in Henryville but said: "All the children are out. No injuries to any of them, just minor scrapes and abrasions."
Indiana officials were confirming six deaths from the tornadoes on Friday, three each in Jefferson and Scott counties, according to Sergeant Rod Russell of the Indiana State Police. He could not immediately confirm whether two deaths reported by Ripley County emergency management and one by the Clark County sheriff's office added to that total.
Storm warnings were issued from the Midwest to the Southeast. Schools, government offices and businesses closed ahead of the storms, which came after a series of tornadoes earlier in the week killed 13 people in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee.
This week's violent storms raised fears that 2012 will be another bad year for tornadoes after 550 deaths in the United States were blamed on twisters last year, the deadliest year in nearly a century, according to the Weather Service.
The highest death tolls were from an April outbreak in Alabama and Mississippi that claimed 364 lives, and from a May tornado in Joplin, Missouri, that killed 161 people. There were two tornado-related deaths earlier this year in Alabama.
ALABAMA TOWN STRUCK FOR SECOND YEAR
Huntsville, Alabama, which was struck in April 2011 in an outbreak of tornadoes that killed 364 people, was hit again on Friday. An emergency management official said seven people had been transported to hospitals.
"There were two storms that moved across the area, very close together, almost attached to each other," National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Darden said. The Weather service said the area was hit by an EF-2 tornado with winds of 120 miles per hour.
The path of the storm near Huntsville was similar to a devastating tornado on April 27, 2011, part of an outbreak that killed 364 people across Alabama and Mississippi that month.
Authorities said 40 homes were destroyed and 150 damaged in two northern Alabama counties on Friday.
A prison, Limestone Correctional Facility, was in the path of the storm, Alabama officials said. High winds caused roof damage to two dormitories, forcing 300 inmates to be moved to elsewhere in the facility.
No one was seriously injured at the prison and there were no risks of prisoners escaping, though there was damage to some perimeter fencing and a canteen, said Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Multiple tornadoes also struck Tennessee and along the Ohio River valley in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
In Kentucky, a small trailer park, a fire station and a few homes in Trimble County were destroyed by suspected tornadoes about 40 miles northwest of Louisville, the Kentucky State Police said.
"We're kind of in the middle of a storm," said Kentucky Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Monica French.
The fire house and trailer park in Milton "were down to the ground," said the state police's Kevin Woosley, who added there had been some injuries.
Storm damage to transmission lines in Tennessee forced operators to reduce the output of the Tennessee Valley Authority's 1,126-megawatt Unit 2 at the Sequoyah nuclear plant to 70 percent from full power, a spokeswoman said.
More than 57,000 customers served by providers in the TVA service area were without power in north Alabama, western Kentucky and southeast Tennessee, the power supplier said.