High winds knocked down trees and power lines, damaging numerous buildings in the Nashville, Tennessee, area early Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
The storm was part of a large system that stretched from Michigan to the Louisiana coastline, carrying the threat of thunderstorms, high winds and possibly tornadoes, according to forecasters.
Tornado warnings were up Wednesday morning in east central Mississippi and eastern Tennessee, the weather service said.
In Nashville, the weather service listed dozens of damage reports across the region: a funnel cloud was reported early Wednesday in Jackson County, there were dozens of reports of downed trees and power lines, and law enforcement reported damage to homes and businesses.
CNN affiliate WSMV, citing police, said one person died when a shed fell on a building in Davidson County.
The station also reported the partial collapse of an office building in Mount Juliet.
"I built it myself to take an event like this. And it looks like a freight train hit it," the station quoted building owner Dewey Lineberry as saying. "It's just destroyed. It laid the building down on top of cars, it put the building on top of people. It's unbelievable."
Workers who were inside the building when the storm hit took cover under mattresses, the station said.
The storm came dangerously close to WSMV, the station reported: Workers had to move to a safe room when a buzzer in the newsroom alerted them of storm danger around 4 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Wednesday, the station reported.
In Wilson County, Tennessee, strong winds damaged four buildings, though it was not immediately known if it was the result of a tornado, Emergency Management Director John Jewell told CNN.
One family became trapped inside their mobile home and were rescued, he said.
About 14,000 people in the country were without power, Jewell added.
The weather service also reported severe weather Wednesday in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.
A large springlike storm system is pushing severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and unstable conditions favorable for tornadoes eastward through the Mississippi Valley.
Heavy gusts in excess of 70 mph could bring significant damage. "I think it's definitely a dangerous night and day," CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said.
The system should not produce a mass 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, the weather service said.
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 the day Wednesday but will still pack potentially dangerous weather conditions for the southeastern United States.