UPDATE: ABC News affiliate WHAS-TV is reporting four deaths in Jefferson County, Ind.
(WASHINGTON) — Powerful tornadoes that have raged across wide swaths of the United States continued Friday, leveling Alabama homes and causing damage to a prison roughly 10 miles outside of Huntsville, Ala.
A maximum-security prison that houses roughly 2,100 inmates, including more than 200 with HIV, was hit-hard by the storm, which blew down 1,000 feet of fence around the prison. The tornadoes also damaged roofs of two prison dormitories, according to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett.
There were conflicting reports regarding inmate injuries, but prison officials reported that the area was secure and no inmates escaped.
At least four people from the Huntsville area were taken to local hospitals, although the extent of their injuries was not immediately known. Emergency crews were continuing to survey the storm-damaged area.
Meanwhile, schools across the Midwest and South closed early in response to forecasts of further severe weather in the areas, many of which were still recovering from the tornadoes earlier this week that killed 13 people across seven states.
According to Russell Schneider, director of NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., “The risk to property and people is substantial on a widespread outbreak of this variety.”
Schneider told ABC News that the storm system will be moving quickly, “up to 50-60 miles an hour,” leading to rapid changes in severe weather conditions. Schneider advised people who might be in the storm’s path to “monitor the situation very carefully.”
“Now is the time to identify safe shelter, such as a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor in a sturdy building, for when threatening weather approaches and when a warning is issued,” said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Also, be sure to have a NOAA weather radio along with fresh batteries to ensure immediate awareness of this serious weather situation.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio