Midwest Residents Pick Up Pieces after Deadly Storm

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Residents across the Midwest are cleaning up after a series of deadly tornadoes ripped through the area.

At least 20 twister touched down in seven states over the past 36-hours, leveling hundreds of homes and killing at least 12 people. The National Weather Service confirmed more than a dozen tornadoes touched down, from Nebraska to Kentucky.

Harrisburg, Ill., was among the areas hardest hit. Weather officials say the tornado was an EF-4, the second most powerful twister on the Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity.

The storm packed winds in excess of 170 mph.

"I heard the wind pick up and the house coming apart. The windows blew out, the glass was flying through the house like massive knives," one Harrisburg resident said.

Images of a southern Illinois city about 57 miles southeast of Evansville, Ind., show entire neighborhoods destroyed.

Because the storm hit so suddenly, residents had no time to seek shelter. Six people have been confirmed dead.

"It's just unreal. It's like a war zone if you haven't seen that area there," Harrisburg Fire Chief Bill Summers said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn declared the southern third of the state a disaster area.

*Jody Herrington-Gettys, U.S. director of Operation Blessing, talked more about how the charity aid organization is helping the people of Harrisburg, on CBN News Channel Morning Show, Mar. 1.

"There's folks in the hospital, at least 100 people. So we have to make sure they get better. We're in the recovery phase, and we're going to spare no expense," Quinn said.

At least half of the small town of Harveyville, Kan., was destroyed when an EF-2 tornado with wind gusts of up to 130 mph hit the area a little after 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents say it came so quickly they barely had time to take cover.

"I was sitting there watching TV. The TV went off, so I got up to go into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and all of a sudden the windows went off -- just like a big shotgun," resident Richard Newman described.

"And I told my wife to hit the floor and she said, 'I'm down here already,'" he said.

Tornadoes also touched down Tuesday night in Branson, Mo., a popular tourist destination. The storms struck at a time dangerously close to the start of the city's heavy tourism season.

Meteorologists have warned another strong storm system could hit many of the same areas on Friday.

CBN's Operation Blessing

CBN's Operation Blessing International has responded to the crisis, sending its mobile kitchen and construction trailer to Harrisburg, Ill.

The kitchen will provide free meals for storm victims and the trailer carries tools, equipment and cleanup gear.

Find out how you can help CBN's Operation Blessing International respond to disasters at home and around the world.

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Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.