LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Tornadoes fueled by unusually warm air pummeled the South and Midwest on Friday, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more. Forecasters said storms could hit along a stretch from near Chicago to New Orleans later in the evening as New Year’s Eve celebrations were underway.

Three people died in Arkansas when a tornado touched down just before sunrise, and three others died when a storm spawned by the same weather system ripped up the Missouri countryside. A number of storms were also reported in the St. Louis area.

The Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma said storms late Friday could do more damage from northern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico as communities prepared to mark the start of the new year. Forecasters posted tornado watches for the region that were set to run until 8 p.m. local time.

“It sucked me out of my house and carried me across the road and dropped me,” Chris Sisemore of Cincinnati told The Associated Press. “I was Superman for a while. … You’re just free-floating through the air. Trees are knocking you and smacking you down.”

Sisemore said he tried to crawl under his bed and cling to the carpet, fearful a nearby pecan tree would fall into his home.

In south-central Missouri, 21-year-old Megan Ross and her 64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died at a farm where their family lived among three mobile homes and two frame houses, Dent County Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash said.

A mother and an infant in another trailer were able to run to a sturdier home, he said.

In Arkansas, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in their home and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the storm while milking cows, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.

At Fort Leonard Wood, a storm demolished about a dozen homes and caused lesser damage to many more in a neighborhood that houses officers.

The fort directed essential personnel to report for duty and that all nonessential personnel should stay away. Two people were taken to a fort hospital for treatment and were released. A door-to-door search looking for victims continued into the late afternoon.

The region has been bracing for severe weather for much of the week. Gulf moisture riding southerly winds pushed temperatures into the upper 60s and 70s on Thursday — ahead of a cold front expected to drop temperatures into the teens this morning.