AT LEAST 30 people are dead and tens of thousands without power after a storm system spawned a chain of tornadoes over three days across a large swath of the US.
The storms flattened homes and businesses and forced frightened residents in more than half-a-dozen states to take cover.
Thirteen people are confirmed to have been killed on Monday and 17 on Sunday in a band stretching from Oklahoma in the central heartland to Alabama in the south east.
In Mississippi, officials said eight people died, seven of them in hard-hit Winston County.
In Alabama, three were reported dead, two in the northern part of the state and one in Tuscaloosa, where a University of Alabama student died when he took shelter in the basement of a home near the campus and a retaining wall collapsed on him.
Tennessee officials said two people died in a home when a suspected tornado hit on Monday night.
On Sunday, 15 people were killed as a tornado carved an 80-mile path through the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas. One person died in Oklahoma, and another in Iowa.
Forecasts yesterday showed the storm continuing to move east, with Georgia and Alabama residents waking to sirens, howling wind and pounding rain.
Others found their loved ones missing and their homes pulverised.
The storm sent staff at a Tupelo TV news station running for cover.
WTVA-TV chief meteorologist Matt Laubhan was reporting live on the weather when he realised the twister was coming dangerously close.
"This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak. And this could be deadly," he said in a video widely tweeted and broadcast on YouTube.
Moments later he added: "A damaging tornado. On the ground. Right now."
In the video he is seen peeking in from the side to see if he is still on air before yelling to staff off-camera: "Basement, now!" He then disappears off camera.
Later, the station tweeted: "We are safe here."