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Tales of loss and survival emerge tornadoes' wake (+video)

Tornadoes thrashed the southeastern United States this week. What to do when a twister hits.

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    Lightning lights up the night sky behind a home in Waverly, Va, that was hit by a tornado earlier in the day, Wednesday.
    L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot/AP
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A system of storms swept across the US East Coast Wednesday, killing several people, tearing down homes, and causing power outages. Dozen of tornadoes were recorded, as well as hail the size of golf balls. More than 2,800 flights have since been cancelled.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency after tornadoes wrecked houses and buildings, and left thousands in the dark across the state.

Waverly, a tiny town of roughly 2,000, was perhaps hit the hardest in the state. A 2-year-old child and two men were killed there during the storm, according to Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

In Essex County, the 25 injuries ranged from minor to serious, but there were no confirmed fatalities. Timothy Williams said he was with a friend, about to go for a ride when the storm arrived.

"It picked the car right off the ground, and put it right back on the ground," he said, adding that they remained inside the car until the storm passed. They escaped jolted, but unhurt.

Two states below in South Carolina, a man in Darlington County was killed when a pine tree fell because of the storms.

Between Louisiana and Florida, Bill Bunting with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center estimated a count of 20 to 24 tornadoes to hit.

Southern Louisiana was especially vulnerable. In the town of Convent, cars and mobile homes at a recreational vehicle park were torn and tossed, laying on top of one another. Two were killed, and another 31 were injured.

Recommended: Six tornado survivor stories

In the case of a tornado, experts recommend seeking shelter in basements and interior rooms without windows, if indoors. Flying debris is the greatest danger, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Mattresses or blankets can provide some protection. Stay away from cars, trees, bridges, and mobile homes.

If you’re stuck outside, lie flat and face-down on the ground, holding the back of your head with your arms.

Meanwhile in the Midwest, the storms were accompanied by heavy snow and wind. Northern Indiana was expected to see the worst snowfall – up to 18 inches. Parts of Michigan was also projected to receive more than a foot of snow.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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