LEXINGTON — A day after deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast, survivors looked for what they could salvage, huddled in loved ones' hospital rooms and shared stories of how they made it through the furious storms.
Some were also mourning.
People in a hard-hit North Carolina neighborhood marked the spot where a 3-year-old girl's body was found with an American flag. The little girl and her grandmother were among six killed Wednesday in three states.
The two were alone in the small house in a rural area south of Lexington when the storm hit, leaving behind only the foundation. The house's splintered remains were scattered hundreds of feet. The family's Dodge minivan ended up propped against a nearby tree, its windows smashed and roof caved in.
Firefighters and volunteers searched for the girl, whose name wasn't immediately released, for more than two hours before finding her buried in a pile of shattered lumber and furniture.
"She was just beautiful - big blue eyes and so sweet," said Maegan Chriscoe, whose daughter played with the young victim.
Elsewhere, the storms killed three in South Carolina, and a Georgia motorist died when a tree crushed his SUV north of Atlanta.
Dozens more were injured across the region. Scores of buildings were damaged, and thousands were without power. Meteorologists confirmed Thursday that tornadoes had struck Louisiana and Alabama a day earlier and that twisters were suspected in Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Ideal conditions for severe weather were created when a cold front stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast collided with unseasonably warm air, forecasters said. Temperatures dropped in some areas from the low 70s to the 50s as the front passed.
Still, it's not unusual for the region to have severe storms in November because temperatures can fluctuate wildly, said National Weather Service meteorologist Neil Dixon.
Back in Lexington, Marshall Chriscoe described running for cover in his house, which is across the street from where the little girl and her grandmother died. When he got a text message from his girlfriend that a tornado was headed his way, he grabbed her 4-year-old daughter, and they huddled under a heavy roll-top desk.
"The house started shaking, and things were falling," said Chriscoe, 24, who is Maegan Chriscoe's brother. "It only lasted 15, maybe 30 seconds. I stood up and realized I was standing on an incline."
The small house he rents had been lifted off its foundation. After finding his girlfriend's Chihuahua hiding under a bed, he went outside to find a scene of devastation.
Chriscoe said he and other neighbors quickly found the gravely injured grandmother in the debris of her home. "She was talking and moving her arms," he said. "She just kept yelling, 'Get me up!' But we were afraid to move her before the rescue squad got there."
About a quarter mile away, Richard Hedrick worked to salvage what he could from his ruined childhood home. He said his parents sought shelter in their basement and suffered minor injuries when their brick house was lifted and dropped back in place. Hedrick felt lucky that they were OK.
"Mama always said she wanted a sunroom," he said jokingly when asked if they planned to rebuild. "This was the home place, lots of memories here. But next week, we'll have Thanksgiving dinner somewhere else, and we'll be truly thankful."