The death toll climbed to more than 80 in Kentucky alone, the state's governor said, adding he expects the statewide fatalities from the disaster to surpass 100.
Powerful tornadoes that have swept through the US state of Kentucky, leave many residents without power, gas or even a roof over their heads.
They woke up on Sunday to a landscape scarred by a string of storms that obliterated buildings, homes and anything else in their way.
The death toll rose to more than 80 in Kentucky alone, the state's governor said, adding he expects the statewide fatalities from the disaster to surpass 100.
"I can tell you from reports that I've received, I know we've lost more than 80 Kentuckians," Governor Andy Beshear told CNN. "That number is going to exceed more than 100."
The new figure brings to 93 the confirmed death toll from the storms that ravaged six US states overnight Friday into Saturday, with dozens still missing and several towns devastated.
Authorities said they had little hope of finding survivors beneath the rubble.
Rescue workers, volunteers and residents were due to begin the long process of recovering what they could and clearing out fields of debris.
Six workers were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. A nursing home was struck in Missouri. More than 70,000 people were left without power in Tennessee.
But nowhere suffered as much as the small town of Mayfield, Kentucky, where the powerful twisters, which weather forecasters say are unusual in winter, destroyed a candle factory and the fire and police stations.
Across the town of 10,000 people in the state's southwestern corner, homes were flattened or missing roofs, giant trees had been uprooted and street signs were mangled.
People combed through the rubble of their homes for belongings until night fell on Saturday. Then the power-deprived town was mired in darkness, save for occasional flashlights and emergency vehicle headlights.
Janet Kimp, 66, and her son Michael Kimp, 25, survived by hunkering down in their hallway - the only part of the house where the roof or the walls did not come crashing down, she said on Saturday.
This was but the latest disaster to afflict her: Kimp said her house burned down years ago, and then she had to file for bankruptcy following her husband's death.
"I've lost it all again," Kimp said as she stood in the remnants of her living room, where furniture was overturned and debris littered the ground. She stayed the night at her daughter's house in Mayfield, which was spared.
The genesis of the tornado outbreak was a series of overnight thunderstorms, including a super cell storm that formed in northeast Arkansas.
That storm moved from Arkansas and Missouri and into Tennessee and Kentucky.
Unusually high temperatures and humidity created the environment for such an extreme weather event at this time of year, experts said.
President Joe Biden told reporters he would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to examine what role climate change may have played in fueling the storms.