It took just two minutes for a powerful twister to cause death and devastation after it touched down in rural Jackson County, Alabama early Wednesday morning.
The EF-2 tornado packed 127-mph winds over a distance of just 200 yards, but that was enough to claim the lives of three people sheltering down in a mobile home in the community of Rosalie, officials said.
The deadly storm also flattened a strip mall and gas station as well as a church in Rosalie.
It was the same deadly storm that touched down with even greater force in nearby Dekalb County, this time with an EF-3 twister packing 145 mph winds over a destructive 7.5-mile path.
In its wake a 24-hour daycare had been completely torn apart and seven people had been injured, including three children.
Officials say as many as 20 confirmed twisters hit northern part of the state.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency after the deadly storm system produced "severe thunderstorms, hail, straight line winds, and tornadoes," in 12 counties.
Some 20 homes were destroyed in Jackson County and 45 others were damaged, according to an initial assessment.
"The people of Alabama have already suffered because of this week's severe weather and we are experiencing more today," Governor Bentley said on Wednesday afternoon. "This State of Emergency will activate state agencies to assist communities in whatever way necessary, to ensure our people get the help they need."
Prior to Wednesday's storms, the state had already been battling a severe drought and 11 large wildfires, the governor said.
In Tennessee, meteorologists confirmed three tornadoes on Wednesday that killed two people and injured dozens, the weather service said.
An EF-2 tornado struck McMinn County in the eastern part of the state around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, injuring 20 people and damaging 30 structures.
But one bright spot did emerge, as a healthy baby was born amidst the terror of a powerful storm.
"In one of the hardest hit areas, at one of our hardest hit homes, a new child came into the world. A baby was born at the local hospital, and that family's house had been destroyed," McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, according to WTCV, a local ABC affiliate.
The mother was thrown from the home and the house destroyed, but emergency responders were able to get to the hospital just in time and she miraculously delivered a healthy baby.
"So we had 20 injured and one brand new life," Gentry said.
Deadly Twisters Confirmed in South, 2 States Assess Damages