12 Now Dead, Towns Flattened in Severe Weather Outbreak

Debris from a storm-damaged motel is blown across the parking lot Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the entertainment resort town of Branson and laying waste to small towns in Illinois and Kansas. At least nine people were killed. (AP Photo/The News-Leader, Dean Curtis)

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By Lauren Peikoff

UNDATED (AP) - The powerful weather system that raked the Midwest is now blamed for 12 deaths, the latest three in the South.

Officials in eastern Tennessee say powerful storms packing high winds that stripped roofs and flattened trees also killed at least three people. The area is about 60 miles west of Knoxville.

The storms are part of the same massive system that spawned a pre-dawn twister that flattened entire blocks of homes in the small Illinois town of Harrisburg and killed six people. Scientists say the tornado was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. It's believed to have been 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.

Winds also ripped through the country music mecca of Branson, Mo., damaging some of the city's famous theaters just days before the start of the busy tourist season.
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