MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The worst sound Eric Funkhouser said he has ever heard was a 10-second "voom" followed by a man's screams.
A tornado hit Funkhouser's home in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville, on Friday, part of severe storms that spawned tornadoes across the Southeast blamed for at least three deaths and dozens of injuries.
"It sounded like seven freight trains and 22 vacuum cleaners all going at the same time," Funkhouser said Saturday as he returned to what is left of his home and neighborhood.
Funkhouser ran outside and found his neighbor John Bryant lying in Funkhouser's front yard, covered with blood and screaming.
"He kept saying that his wife and baby were out there with him and he had to find them," Funkhouser said.
Twenty minutes later, Funkhouser and other survivors found Bryant's wife, Kori, dead in the gravel driveway under debris, and 9-week-old Olivia Bryant dead buckled in her car seat, beneath carpet and a tree.
Family friend Laura Lawrence said Bryant, a self-employed construction worker, had just gotten home on his lunch break. He, his wife and daughter were seeking shelter when the tornado rolled through.
Bryant was in critical condition with a broken back on Saturday, Lawrence said.
National Weather Service officials said a preliminary report showed the tornado tore a 15-mile path through the university town of about 100,000 with winds as high as 165 mph.
Deputy City Manager Rob Lyons said 42 homes were destroyed, 140 were damaged and 71 were affected but habitable. Several thousand customers were still without power Saturday.
More than 40 people were injured. Seven people were in critical condition Saturday afternoon, said Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services director Randy White.
Reports of destruction were widespread across the region Friday, with funnel clouds seen in Kentucky and Alabama, and devastating winds, hail and heavy rain reported in several states.
In South Carolina, a driver trying to avoid storm debris in the eastern part of the state was killed Friday, state Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker said.
On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud packing winds of at least 136 mph descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three people, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes.
There, emergency officials are trying to collect ice chests and tarps to prepare for another round of storms projected to hit the area today.