The mid-afternoon storm damaged the community, briefly knocking out power but Lilbourn Fire Chief Dave McClarty said no one was seriously injured, although one person apparently received minor injuries.
Several people reported seeing two tornadoes at two different times -- around 1 p.m. and around 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Derek Brown, a Lilbourn resident, was watching television when he received a call from his mother, who heard the town's tornado warning and alerted him to the danger. Brown said he looked out his front window and saw the tornado just above the tree tops coming in his direction.
Brown said he headed for safety at the center of the house. Moments later, he continued, he was thanking God for his safety.
Residents, police and fire officials and city and county workers soon arrived in about a three-block area near the Delmo Center where the winds did the most damage. Crews worked quickly to determine all residents were safe and streets reopened in the Delmo area around 3:40 p.m.
New Madrid County R-1 School officials were also in the area checking to ensure all youngsters were safely home. Superintendent Bill Nance described school officials as in "tornado mode," keeping a close watch on the weather and delaying the end of school about 15 minutes until it was determined the hazardous weather had passed and it was safe for buses to run.
Tim Noe's house along Highway D was one of the mostly severely damaged by the storm, which blew shingles from the roof and snapped tree limbs in the front and back yards. Explaining he was asleep when the storm hit, Noe said he was awakened by the sound of the wind whipping around his home.
The New Madrid County Sheriff's dispatcher Marta Mitchem said the first sighting of the storm was at 2:35 p.m. by Conservation Agent Rodney Ivie who reported a tornado along Highway 62, west of Lilbourn. The twister apparently turned over some LP tanks, tore shingles from roofs and downed a power line and pole, before moving into Lilbourn.
After crossing over Lilbourn, the storm headed east, reportedly touching down near the Highway U overpass as it crosses over Interstate 55. At this point, Mitchem said, Chris Henry with the New Madrid Police Department watched the storm dip down before going back up into the sky and continuing east.
Trees were downed and electricity was out on County Road 507. On County Road 502, a tree was reported down and blocking a road near New Madrid County Central Schools.
A second tornado was seen in East Prairie, Mississippi County Sheriff's dispatcher Diane Kelly said.
East Prairie dispatcher Darlene Cave said the storm siren was sounded. In East Prairie, school buses were held until about 3:10 p.m. until the weather cleared up, according to East Prairie R-2 Superintendent Scott Downing. Basically the staff and students did what they've practiced in tornado drills, he said.
"Several parents came and picked up their children which was fine," Downing said. "And overall we were pretty lucky."
The tornado in East Prairie moved east across the Mississippi River into Cairo, Ill.
A sheriff's deputy also spotted tornado-like rotations, high winds and quarter-size hail near the town of Wyatt in Mississippi County, Kelly said.
In addition to Missouri and Illinois, tornado touchdowns were spotted in 12 counties in western and central Tennessee, with some of the worst damage occurring in Henry County, about 90 miles west of Nashville.
''Numerous homes there were damaged, some completely destroyed,'' said Faye Scott, spokeswoman for the Henry County Sheriff's Department. ''It's major destruction.''
Funnel clouds were also sighted in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, where one storm-related death was reported. The National Weather Service could not immediately confirm the tornados.
A tornado made a direct hit on Henry County's emergency management center, forcing authorities to relocate to another building to handle the disaster, County Mayor Brent Greer said.
The county medical center treated 13 people with injuries, mostly cuts and bruises, hospital spokeswoman Sandra Sims said.
The storm also ripped the roof off the main shop at the county highway department, destroyed two smaller shops and damaged a furniture manufacturer next door, Greer said.
Most of the highway department staffers were able to take cover in the basement. ''We're very fortunate,'' Greer said.
Brenda Magee was just arriving for work at the furniture factory when the storm hit.
''We were there for about 10 minutes under tables, dust and everything swirling around,'' she said. ''It was a big roar. We heard it hit.''
Another business, Paris Industrial Services, was destroyed, but none of the employees was hurt.
''They told us just to come back tomorrow. We'll figure out things from there,'' employee Chad Fisher said.
Deputies in Montgomery County, northwest of Nashville, recovered a young girl in a trailer that had tumbled down a hill. She was uninjured.
''It looks like a war zone,'' said Ted Denny, spokesman for the county Sheriff's Department.
Police were also going door-to-door in places to check on residents.
Andy Zirkle, a spokesman for the Indiana Emergency Management Agency, said the storms destroyed at least nine homes in the southern part of the state.
''The wind was just really, really ferocious,'' said Julie Wilz, a desk clerk at the Red Roof Inn in Montgomery, Ind.