A violent storm system that ripped apart an Alabama high school later tore through Georgia, hitting a hospital and raising the death toll to at least 20 across the Midwest and Southeast.
As the massive storm system swept into Georgia, a tornado apparently touched down near the Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus, 117 miles south of Atlanta, blowing out the windows, tossing cars into trees and killing at least two people, said Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Doctors, nurses and volunteers had worked into the night to evacuate dozens of patients.
''It was controlled chaos,'' said Tim Powell, an anesthesiologist.
Sumter Regional Hospital was in shambles this morning. Officials weren't sure whether the people injured and the two reported dead in town were inside the hospital when the storm struck, Weiss said.
''It's just a blessing, frankly, that we didn't have more fatalities than we did,'' Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said after viewing the damage today. He declared a state of emergency in six counties, clearing the way for state aid.
Eight students died when a tornado struck Enterprise (Ala.) High School, Mayor Kenneth Boswell said today. The teenage victims were all in a wing of the school that took a direct hit as the tornado blew out the walls and roof. -- by the Associated Press