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Storms across U.S. kill at least 11

Story Highlights

At least 3 killed as tornadoes hit southern Georgia
• 7 die in Alabama twister; five at Enterprise High School
• Alabama governor declares state of emergency
• Dusk to dawn curfew is in effect for Alabama town
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ENTERPRISE, Alabama (CNN) -- Storms stampeded throughout the central and southeastern United States on Thursday, leaving at least 11 people dead.

A tornado Thursday afternoon in southeastern Alabama killed seven people, five of them at Enterprise High School, said spokeswoman Tasamie Richardson.

The storms also were blamed for the death of a 7-year-old girl in Missouri.

At least two people were killed and several people injured when a tornado slammed into a hospital in the south Georgia town of Americus on Thursday evening, according to a Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

A third person was killed and four were hurt when a tornado touched down in rural Taylor County near the southwest Georgia city of Albany, the spokesman said.

The city of Americus lost its fleet of ambulances when the tornado hit at the Sumter Regional Medical Center just before 10 p.m. ET, said Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Ambulances from Albany, about 35 miles away, were sent to Americus to help, Weiss said. It was not immediately known if those killed in Americus were patients at the hospital, he said.

In Alabama, a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on Enterprise to help keep roads clear for emergency workers, who will be working overnight to search the damaged buildings, Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell said. (Watch tornado scream into Enterprise Video )

Students at Enterprise High School were taking cover when it was hit. (Watch scenes of destruction Video)

"The whole building just collapsed on everybody," said Chase Baldwin, a student at the school. "A bunch of people were trapped under cinder blocks, and people had their heads cut open."

There was one other death in Enterprise and one fatality in Wilcox County, where a number of homes were destroyed, Richardson said.

CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, in the area to cover a military story, said Enterprise was reeling from "utter devastation" as anguished parents rushed to the town's severely damaged high school.

"[There are] vehicles flipped over, houses gone. This huge brick and steel building [was] torn apart by the power of the storm," McIntrye said.

"You can see the grief on the faces of the people who come here," he added. "I saw one student walking away, being comforted by another student."

Laren Allgood, a reporter for the Enterprise Ledger, said the sprawling high school "looked like a bomb dropped on [it.] All the school buses are demolished."

Allgood said alarms alerted the town's 20,000 residents before the tornado hit. "We knew to take cover."

The National Weather Service reported a swath of damage about 200 yards wide in Enterprise.

"I heard rumbling," said Walt Thornton, who works at the Enterprise Municipal Airport. "I looked up to the southwest and saw ... a huge tornado going on in the valley behind some of our hangars."

A tornado was also reported in nearby Abbeville, in Henry County, Alabama, a spokesman for the Abbeville Police Department said.

"We had one residence that was struck, no reports of injuries," said public information officer Chad Sowell. About half a mile away, 10 miles west of Abbeville, an 18-wheeler was overturned on State Highway 10 and the driver was trapped, he said.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley ordered the state's National Guard to send a contingent of 140 troops, including medics, MPs and roving security patrols, from Mobile to Enterprise. Their primary mission is security.

The National Guard has three CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters, as well as an engineering unit on standby if needed for search and rescue or debris removal.

In addition, at least two UH-1 "Huey" medevac helicopters were sent from nearby Fort Rucker to the high school.

Riley also declared a state of emergency in the area.

President Bush was briefed on the storm while in New Orleans Thursday afternoon and again when he boarded Air Force One for the return flight to Washington. He telephoned Riley and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt en route.

"The president is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "He is thinking about the families of the victims and the citizens of the states, and the administration stands ready to help."

One death in Missouri blamed on system

Earlier Thursday, a suspected tornado touched down at least twice in southern Missouri, leaving one person dead and four injured, according to Susie Stonner of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. (Watch storm's path of destruction Video)

Dennis Crider, a journalist for the West Plains Quill, told CNN the fatality was a 7-year-old girl in the small community of Caulfield. Three of the injured were her father, mother and a brother, Crider quoted the Howell County sheriff as saying.

A gas station in Caulfield, about 15 miles west of West Plains, was destroyed by the storm, according to the assistant manager of a neighboring station.

"It's like a war zone down there," said Delora Murta. (Gallery)

Volatile system formed quickly

"We had a spotter who watched [the tornado] form and dissipate in 10 minutes," said West Plains Emergency Management Coordinator Kent Edge.

The storm system hit northern Arkansas Thursday morning. Hail covered the ground, but there was no damage and officials do not believe a tornado touched down.

"It looked awful," said Fulton County Emergency Management Coordinator Al Roork. "But we just had hail and rain."

In the city of Moberly in north-central Missouri, a possible tornado blew a tractor-trailer truck on its side, slightly injuring the driver. It also tore the roof off of one business and damaged a hangar at the regional airport and a plane inside it, according to Sgt. Kevin Palmatory of Moberly Police.

On the north side of the storm, blizzard-like conditions and heavy snow were hitting the states in the path of the system. (Full story)

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


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A home in Enterprise, Alabama, was destroyed Thursday when a tornado tore through the town.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Quiz: Twister trivia
• Gallery: 10 deadliest
• Map: Tornado Alley
• Gallery: Facts and myths
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