"Our priority today is search and rescue," said Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. "We want to make sure that anyone who's in the area, that we get them safe."
At least 19 people are now known dead in central Florida, hundreds of homes are damaged, and fields are littered with clothes, furniture and splintered lumber.
Search crews moved through the four hardest hit counties using spray paint to mark what they found inside splintered buildings.
Residents who had been startled out of bed at about 3 a.m. came back after sunrise to look for friends or loved ones and to salvage things that weren't blown apart.
"Oh, I knew it was a tornado because I've never seen, I've never heard. It was just like a boom, like an explosion. At least we have our lives. That's what's important. The material stuff don't count," one victim said.
Dozens of mobile homes were destroyed near Lady Lake in Lake County, about 50 miles northwest of Orlando. Chairs, beds and clothes were strewn about yards, with debris hanging from trees.
Some homes were tossed from their foundations, while others had their roofs ripped off.