UPDATED: At Least 9 People Killed In Deadly Midwest Storms

A line of severe storms moving across the Midwest left death and destruction in its wake early today.

The storms moved through Kansas and Missouri overnight, destroying one trailer park and leaving at least one dead in Buffalo, Mo.

The hardest hit area is Harrisburg, Ill., where authorities say at least six people have been killed after what is presumed to be a tornado raked the town before dawn. (Note: in situations such as this, details such as the number of people killed and injured change as more information comes in. We will be updating this post.)

The National Weather Service says the storm system will very quickly make its way east, and more tornadoes are expected.

The NWS says these are the areas to watch through the evening:

-- Northern Alabama

-- Northern Georgia

-- Southern and Eastern Kentucky

-- Northern Mississippi

-- Western North Carolina

-- Much of Tennessee

We'll keep updating this post with the latest, so make sure to hit refresh.

Update at 4:30 p.m. ET. As Many As 10 Tornadoes And 170 MPH Winds:

The Weather Channel reports that "as many as 10 tornadoes touched down in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana Wednesday morning." And as for the twister that tore through Harrisburg, Ill., there's this stunning estimate:

"The tornado that hit Harrisburg, IL early this morning has now been rated EF-4, with 170 mph winds."

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET. On The Death Toll:

The Associated Press now says at least nine people were killed by the storms. According to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who was just on CNN, there were three fatalities in his state. According to the AP and authorities now holding a press conference, six people died in Harrisburg, Ill. More than 100 people are said to have been injured.

Update at 12:19 p.m. ET. 'Entire Neighborhoods Destroyed':

Jennifer Fuller, of NPR member station WSIU, was in front of the Harrisburg Medical Center when she talked to our Newscast unit a short while ago.

She said that when she canvased the city, she saw "entire neighborhoods destroyed."

Jennifer said she saw some trees split in half next to piles of rubble that used to be homes.

"It's devastating for these people," she reported.

She said because the severe storms — it is not yet confirmed if they spun tornadoes — moved through Harrisburg in the early morning, it's possible some people were asleep.

"It's ironic," she said, "that just this week the Illinois Emergency Management Agency was telling people to be ready for storm season in March and to have those weather radios handy."

Update at 11:54 p.m. ET. Video Of The Damage:

WSILTV of Southern Illinois reports that the Saline County Sheriff's Office said that about 100 people have been injured and at least 250 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Harrisburg.

The station posted this video of the damage:

Update at 11:34 p.m. ET. Deadly Storms Move Through Illinois:

The AP is now reporting that 10 people have been killed by storms in Southern Illinois. Eric Gregg, the mayor of Harrisburg just told CNN that the death toll stands at 5.

The Harrisburg Daily Register says it was an early morning tornado that moved through the area.

At least one person was killed in the same storm system as it moved through Missouri.

Our Original Story Continues:

"We are now entering early spring, so severe weather season is upon us and it has started with a bang," John Gagan, a senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Springfield, Mo., tells our Newscast unit.

Gagan is referring to a line of storms that moved east from Pittsburg, Kan., to north of Springfield, Mo., and caused "widespread damage."

The AP reports that at least one person was killed and 13 others were injured when a possible tornado moved through a trailer park in Buffalo, Mo.

Gagan said there was also quite a bit of damage in the main commercial strip of Branson, where they had reports of damaged buildings. The Branson Tri-Lakes News reports that there are multiple injuries throughout the city and "people are trapped."

"We won't know the extent of the damage until daylight," Gagan said.

The AP adds:

"Elsewhere, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency late Tuesday after an apparent tornado struck Harveyville.

"The declaration covered Wabaunsee County, southwest of Topeka. A news release from the governor's office said one person was critically injured and "a number of homes" and a church were damaged, and trees and power lines were down."

Gagan says the storms will continue moving east toward the Ohio River Valley and he could "not rule out a few tornadoes."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


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