A buzzer went off in the newsroom of a local television station in Nashville, Tennessee, letting staff know to evacuate to their safe room immediately.
Tornado warnings had cropped up in at least 11 counties around CNN affiliate WSMV, and the signal came to head for cover at around 4:00 a.m. central.
The National Weather Service also issued tornado warnings around Louisville, Kentucky, indicating thunderstorms capable of producing multiple tornadoes.
A large springlike storm system is pushing severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and unstable conditions favorable for concocting tornadoes eastward through the Mississippi Valley.
The system stretches from southern Illinois into northern Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.
Heavy gusts in excess of 70 mph will have the potential for significant damage. "I think it's definitely a dangerous night and day," said CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.
The system should not produce a slew of tornadoes, since there is not a lot of cloud rotation, Cabrera said. The storm poses "mainly a straight-line threat."
In spite of this, tornado watches have been issued all along the weather system. Wind advisories extend from the Deep South to Virginia, according to the weather service.
Tornado warnings also appeared on the weather service's alerts map early Wednesday in the area where Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana meet and also in southwestern Kentucky.
In Arkansas, wind shears and unstable weather conditions suitable for forming super cells, extremely large cloud systems capable of generating powerful tornadoes, formed earlier west of Little Rock, but no tornadoes were reported.
Wet weather extends outward from the system and stretches from the Gulf of Mexico into Canada.
Flood warnings and watches speckle the weather map from Michigan to southern Louisiana. Many regions should see heavy downpours, Cabrera said, but the front is not expected to stall out and dump excessive amounts of precipitation in any particular area.
The wet weather is predicted to trigger winter storms in the northern plains states. A freezing rain advisory is in effect for much of Iowa and Wisconsin.
The system is forecast to weaken during Wednesday but will still pack potentially dangerous weather conditions for the southeastern United States.