Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) - Leveled buildings, fallen trees and massive piles of rubble stretched across wide swaths of the South after destructive tornadoes and severe storms tore through the region.
By early Friday, the death toll from the wave of powerful storms that struck Wednesday and early Thursday was nearly 300 people in six states. In the city of Tuscaloosa alone, at least 36 people lost their lives.
Officials scrambled to assess the damage as doctors treated hundreds of injured. Dazed residents wandered the streets, telling harrowing tales of devastation and survival.
Employees huddled in a windowless break room at a CVS drug store in Tuscaloosa as a tornado approached and a deafening roar filled the air, store manager Michael Zutell said.
A mother cradling an infant sprinted inside just before the twister hit.
"Glass is breaking. The woman with the baby is screaming. Part of the drop ceiling fell and boxes fly in," he said.
No one inside the store was injured, Zutell said. "It's mind-boggling to think you walked away."
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