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Midwestern storms kill at least 12, tornadoes suspected (VIDEO) (UPDATES)

The powerful storm system ripped through parts of Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee on Wednesday with pounding rain, swirling winds.

Illinois tornado 2012 02 29Enlarge
John Bonenberger looks at debris after a tornado damaged a strip mall where his bussiness was located Feb., 29, 2012 in Harrisburg, Ill. According to reports, at least nine people were killed in tornadoes across the Midwest. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images) (Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

At least 12 people are dead in the wake of powerful storms that ripped through parts of Illinois, Kansas and Missouri early Wednesday before moving into Tennessee, CNN reported.

Three people died in Tennessee, as the storm moved east into the mid-Atlantic region, according to CNN.

Six of the deaths occurred in Harrisburg, Ill., officials said. A confirmed tornado swept through the town around 5 a.m. local time, destroying 35 to 40 homes, local TV station KFVS reported.

The twister was preliminarily rated an EF4 -- the second most powerful on the rating scale -- according to the National Weather Service. A report indicated the tornado had winds estimated at 170 mph.

Three other deaths were reported in Missouri, where storms included a suspected tornado that hit a mobile home park outside the town of Buffalo. One person died there and around a dozen people were injured. Two others died in the Cassville and Puxico areas, MSNBC reported.

By Wednesday night, officials reported that the storms had injured some 200 people across the region, according to CNN.

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An apparent tornado rolled through the country music resort city of Branson, Mo., just before 1 a.m. and seemed to hopscotch up the city's main roadway, ripping roofs off hotels and damaging some of the city's famed music theaters dangerously close to the start of the heavy tourism season, The Associated Press reported.

"The theater next to me kind of exploded," John Moore, owner of the damaged Cakes-n-Creams `50s Diner, told the AP. "It went everywhere. The hotels on the two sides of me lost their roofs. Power lines are down. Windows are blown out. There's major, major destruction."

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In Kansas, at least eight people were injured when a suspected tornado ripped through Harveyville on Tuesday night, NBC News reported.

At least three of the injured were in critical condition, and 40 percent of the town suffered damage, according to weather.com.

Tornado season normally starts in March, but it isn't unusual to see severe storms earlier in the year, AP reported.

Below is a video of the damage:

Tornadoes Rip Through Kansas, Missouri
US News Video by NewsLook

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120229/midwestern-storms-kill-at-least-13-tornadoes