CBNNews.com - Deadly tornadoes ripped through the South Tuesday night as the Super Tuesday primaries were winding down, killing at least 54 people and injuring many more.
In the aftermath, residents tried to salvage what they could from homes that had been reduced to piles of debris. Rescue crews, some with the help of the National Guard, went door-to-door looking for more victims.
The rare outbreak of violent mid-winter storms left a path of destruction throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama.
The Morning After
Only a concrete slab was left from Seavia Dixon's home in Arkansas. She stood in her yard, Wednesday morning, holding muddy baby pictures of her son, who is now a 20-year-old soldier in Iraq.
"You know, it's just material things," Dixon said, her voice breaking. "We can replace them. We were just lucky to survive."
In Walker County, Ala., eight homes were destroyed. A pregnant woman suffered a broken arm when a trailer home was tossed by the wind, an emergency official said.
"I was there before daylight and it looked like a war zone," he said.
In Tennessee, Bonnie and Frank Brawner picked through the rubble of their home near Nashville for photographs and other personal items. The storm sheared off the second story of the home.
"We had a beautiful neighborhood, now it's hell," said Bonnie Brawner, 80.
Among the victims were Arkansas parents who died with their 11-year-old daughter in Atkins, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock.
In Tennessee, Ray Story tried to get his 70-year-old brother, Bill Clark, to a hospital after the storms leveled his mobile home in Macon County, about 60 miles northeast of Nashville.
Clark died as Story and his wife tried to navigate debris-strewn roads in their pickup truck, they said.
"He never had a chance," Story's wife, Nova, said. "I looked him right in the eye and he died right there in front of me."
Bush Offers Help to States
On Wednesday, President Bush called the governors of each affected state, assuring them that the administration is ready to help.
"Loss of life, loss of property - prayers can help and so can the government," Bush said. "I do want the people in those states to know the American people are standing with them."
The twisters ripped warehouses apart and caved in roofs throughout the region. In Memphis, high winds collapsed the roof of a shopping mall.
"I wanted them to know that this government would help them," Bush said. "But more importantly, I wanted them to be able to tell the people in their states that the American people hold those who suffer up in prayer."
Students Spared, Homes Leveled
At least two dormitories were destroyed at a Chrisitian university in Jackson, Tenn. Eight students from Union University were trapped, but none were injured. Tornadoes had hit the campus in the past, and students knew the drill when they heard sirens, said Union University President David S. Dockery.
"When the sirens went off the entire process went into place quickly," Dockery said. Students "were ushered into rooms, into the bathrooms, interior spaces."
He said about 50 students were taken to a hospital and nine stayed through the night. But all would be fine, he said. The students "demonstrated who they are and I'm so proud of them." Watch the video report for more on the miraculous sparing of students on campus.
In Kentucky, Johnnie Martin's house was destroyed. He and his family survived by seeking shelter in their bathroom. He described the scene for one TV station, standing amid debris and rubble that once was their family home.
"And my wife was here, my mother-in-law was right back here and the two kids were here," Martin said.
Others told a similar story.
"All I have left is my front porch," one survivor told a reporter. "The rest of it is gone. The rest of the house is gone."
Emergency crews searching for survivors have had to maneuver through roads filled with debris and downed power lines.
Officials say it may be days before they know the full extent of the damage.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee all paused in their speeches Tuesday night to remember the victims.
Sources: Associated Press, ABC News