Tornado Rips Across Four States, Kills 54

Violent storms and tornadoes tore across the mid-South overnight, leaving at least 54 people dead and many more injured.

Deaths occurred in four states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, as the storms ripped apart homes and university dorms.

Candra Pennington, a senior at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., told CNN there were 15 students in her dorm when the warning sirens went off. Just as they got themselves into the bathroom, debris was flying, windows were shattering and the ceiling began falling on them.

About 1,200 students were believed to be in campus dorms when the tornado hit Tuesday night. Several students were trapped in collapsed buildings and while there were some serious injuries, none were life threatening, according to Baptist Press.

The men's and women's dorms were completely destroyed, the roof of a main academic building was torn off and cars were tossed across campus, according to David Dockery, university president.

"It looks like a war zone," Dockery said.

No one was killed on the Southern Baptist campus of about 3,000 students.

"It's a miracle of the Lord more people weren't injured," Union professor Michael Chute told Baptist Press.

Local churches mobilized buses to take students to the homes of volunteers willing to take them in. Most of the students' cars were destroyed and they thus had no way of getting home. Classes have been canceled at least until Feb. 18.

Emergency crews continue to look through damaged homes across the devastated states for more survivors or victims who might have been overlooked.

Although the storm system moved east on Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued tornado and severe storm warnings and extreme weather still was possible.

President Bush said he called local governors to offer help and to tell them that "the American people hold those who suffered up in prayer," as reported by CNN.