The death toll in the South continued to rise to nearly 300 Thursday evening after massive storms with tornadoes ripped through the region a day earlier and first responders continued to search for survivors, with about two-thirds of the victims coming from Alabama.

There is massive devastation out there, said Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

You cannot prepare against an EF-5, he said, referring to the maximum tornado category, which involves winds faster than 200 miles per hour.

President Barack Obama said the federal goverment would help victims and would visit Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Friday.

We can't control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it, Obama said. I want every American that's been affected by this disaster to know the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover and we will stand with you as we rebuild.

The storms that hit Wednesday - which have included tornadoes - took place in Alabama, Mississippi and four other states in the South. The storms are the nation's deadliest in 37 years.

In 1974, similar storms in the U.S. killed 310 people.

Obama said the damage was nothing short of catastrophic.

Some initial reports indicate that while some residents had as much as 24 minutes of warning that tornadoes were on their way, the storms were too wide and strong for people to escape, according to CBS News.

The National Weather service said about 150 tornadoes swept past Mississippi and Alabama on Wednesday. Tuscaloosa, in Alabama was one of the hardest hitc ities.

The tornado has reportedly caused billions of dollars in damage, Jose Miranda, an executive with catastrophe risk modeling firm EQECAT, told Reuters. He said tornado costs would be in the same ballpark as a series of Oklahoma City tornadoes in 1999 costing $1.58 billion and a 2003 series of tornadoes in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma which cost $4.5 billion in damage