Boone's Chapel (Alabama): With nation's deadliest storm of the season smacking the US South, at least seven people were killed in Alabama including three family members whose homes were tossed into nearby woods.

Combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the confirmed death toll had risen to 17 by early on Sunday.

As vicious storms and howling winds struck the US South, a mother and her two children were among those killed in Alabama's Washington, about 80 Kms north of Mobile, said state  emergency management agency director Art Faulkner.

One person was reported dead in Mississippi's Greene County.

Henley Hollon on Sunday said that his 65-year-old brother, Willard Hollon, lived across the street from him in the Boone's Chapel community about 40 kms from Montgomery.

Henley Hollon said Willard Hollon and Willard's two adult children, Steve and Cheryl, were killed when the storms roared through.

Henley Hollon said he had been watching the weather forecast on television, and thought the worst was over when the winds started to pick up.

"It got up real fast. The lights went out," he said. "We had to feel our way into the hall. It lasted less than a minute."

"When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone," Henley Hollon said. Two mobile homes had been ripped from their foundations, and all that remained on Saturday morning were wooden steps and flowerbeds.

Seven people were hurt in the storm, including a firefighter injured during the emergency response, Sedinger said. He said the storm hopscotched for several kilometers, leaving some areas devastated and others untouched.

Another three deaths were reported early today in Washington County in southern Alabama, said Yasamie Richardson, spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.