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Snow threatens more misery after twisters kill at least 37

Incredible tales of survival emerge as dozens are dead and entire towns are destroyed from a massive outbreak of storms from the Great Lakes to the Gulf coast. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

Updated at 3:20 a.m. ET
HENRYVILLE, Ind. -- As tornado-hit communities searched for victims and removed debris on Saturday, they also got word that their misery isn't over: A cold front moving in from the north is likely to dump snow on the hardest hit regions on Sunday, the National Weather Service said in an alert.

A mix of rain and snow will "quickly change over to all snow late Sunday night," the service warned, in parts of Indiana and Kentucky, where tens of thousands were without power after Friday's twisters that killed at least 39 people, injured hundreds and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.

Temperatures by Sunday night in places like hard-hit Henryville, Ind., are likely to dip below 30 degrees F, a problem for anyone without heat.

On Saturday, several small twisters were reported in southeast Georgia that took down trees but caused no injuries. Parts of northern Florida were under a tornado watch.

Friday's twisters crushed entire blocks of homes, ripped power lines from broken poles and tossed cars, school buses and tractor-trailers onto roadways.

"It's all gone," Andy Bell said of a neighborhood in Henryville, as he guarded a friend's demolished service garage, not far from where a school bus stuck out from the side of a restaurant and a parking lot where a small classroom chair jutted from a car window.

"It was beautiful," he said, looking around. "And now it's just gone. I mean, gone."

NBC News reported that, as of 1:20 a.m. ET Sunday, there were 37 deaths confirmed by authorities: 20 from Kentucky, 12 from Indiana, three from Ohio, one from Alabama and one from Georgia.

In Kentucky, where some 300 people were injured and 17,000 lost power, the National Guard and state police searched wreckage for an unknown number of missing.

In Indiana, authorities searched rural communities that officials said "are completely gone."

One person was known to have died in hard-hit Henryville, a town of about 2,000 near Louisville, Ky., and the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders.

At first glance, the brick-and-steel framed school in Henryville looked like no match for a tornado, but it protected a handful of students and adults who found themselves trapped in a no-man's land. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

Survivors walked down littered streets with shopping carts full of water and food, handing it out to anyone in need. Hundreds of firefighters and police zipped around a town where few recognizable structures remained; all of Henryville's schools were destroyed.

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Susie Renner, 54, said she saw two tornadoes barreling down on Henryville within minutes of each other. The first was brown from being filled with debris; the second was black.

"I'm a storm chaser," Renner said, "and I have never been this frightened before."

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore explains why portions of the US will be seeing many more tornadoes.

Friday's outbreak came two days after tornadoes killed 13 people in the Midwest and South, and forecasters at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had said the day would be one of a handful this year that warranted its highest risk level. By 10 p.m., the weather service had issued 269 tornado warnings. Only 189 warnings were issued in all of February.

"We knew this was coming. We were watching the weather like everyone else," said Danny Rodden, sheriff of Indiana's Clark County. "This was the worst case scenario. There's no way you can prepare for something like this."

2012 tornado disaster relief: How to help

The storms raised fears that 2012 will be another bad year after 550 deaths were blamed on twisters last year, the deadliest year in nearly a century, according to the National Weather Service.

The highest death tolls last year were from an April outbreak in Alabama and Mississippi that claimed 364 lives, and from a May tornado in Joplin, Mo., that killed 161 people. 

Nearly 100 tornadoes were reported on Friday, but the final number will be smaller once duplicate reports are filtered out.

On Friday, 14 people were reported killed in Indiana -- including four in Chelsea, where a man, woman and their 4-year-old great-grandchild died in one house. Tony Williams, owner of the Chelsea General Store, said the child and mother were huddled in a basement when the storm hit and sucked the 4-year-old out her hands. The mother survived, but her 70-year-old grandparents were upstairs; both died.

"They found them in the field, back behind the house," Williams said.

Two people also died farther north in Holton, where it appeared a tornado cut a diagonal swath down the town's tiny main drag, demolishing a cinderblock gas station in one spot and leaving a tiny white church intact down the road.

Severe storms and tear through the midwest and southern states.

"We are going to continue to hit every county road that we know of that there are homes on and search those homes," said Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin. "We have whole communities and whole neighborhoods that are completely gone."

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Tornadoes were reported in at least six Ohio cities and towns, including the village of Moscow, where a council member found dead in her home was one of at least three people killed in the state.

Several dozen homes were damaged, some stripped down to their foundations, and the Clermont County commissioners called a state of emergency for the first time in 15 years.

Severe winds also caused damage in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.