At Least 55 Killed in U.S. Tornados

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Tornadoes and thunderstorms shattered lives and leveled buildings across southern United States, killing at least 55 people and injuring more than 150 in the deadliest such storms in nine years.

In Tennessee's Sumner County, northeast of Nashville, a tornado sucked an 11-month-old boy and his mother from their home. They were found later in a field. The child survived in good condition, but his mother died.

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said he was shocked by the intensity and scope of a storm that "just literally sat on the ground in wide areas" along a track that was as much as 650 kilometers wide.

At Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Ferina Ferrington told a local TV reporter: "My husband and I got into the bathtub with our little girl. I remember flying through the air. It was very scary. Then it was real quiet and we saw our house was gone. Our baby was unhurt."

U.S. President George W. Bush will travel to Tennessee on Friday to survey the storm damage and offer his support to those affected, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

In Arkansas, where almost 500 homes and businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged in four counties, Johnny Martin, 65, gathered belongings from his brick and wood home that lay shattered beneath massive oak trees in the town of Atkins, west of Little Rock.

"We all huddled in the bathroom," Martin said of his wife, mother-in-law and other family members. "I was standing at first at the front door when I heard it. ... The Lord was with us."

Hardest hit by the storms Tuesday and Wednesday were Tennessee -- where 31 people died -- Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. There were unconfirmed reports of 69 tornadoes swirling across those states and northward into Indiana.

The death toll rivaled that of a series of tornadoes in May 1999 in Oklahoma, Texas and other states, when about 50 people were killed, the center said. Tornadoes typically kill about 70 people in the United States each year.