Tornadoes strike central, southern US; fatalities being counted

Motorists check out a travel trailer damaged in an accident involving high winds from a severe thunderstorm that passed near Rich Hill, Mo., Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Motorists check out a travel trailer damaged in an accident involving high winds from a severe thunderstorm that passed near Rich Hill, Mo., Sunday, April 27, 2014. Photo by The Associated Press.

This version, posted at 11:56 p.m., updates and consolidates earlier reports.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that killed at least eight people in central Arkansas and another that killed someone in Oklahoma.

The Arkansas tornado touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock at around 7 p.m. and moved northeastward for at least 30 miles, the National Weather Service reported. It missed the state capital but passed through or near several of its suburbs, causing widespread damage in the communities of Mayflower and Vilonia.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the tornado killed four people in Faulkner County, three people in Pulaski County and one person in White County.

The tornado, which grew to be a half-mile wide, turned buildings into rubble and stripped the leaves and smaller branches off of trees.

It was one of several tornadoes that touched down Sunday as a large storm system moved through parts of the Plains, Midwest and South.

Less than two hours before the Arkansas tornado struck, a twister hit the small northeastern Oklahoma community of Quapaw, killing one person and injuring six others, Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Kelli Soechs said. Earlier Sunday, another Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher reported that two people were killed. Soechs declined to explain the discrepancy.

Five of the six injured in Quapaw were treated and released from Baptist Regional Health Center in Miami, Okla., said hospital spokeswoman Kristie Wallace. The sixth, who was in fair condition with a broken bone, was kept overnight, she said.

Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has about 900 residents, was heavily damaged by the tornado.

"Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department," Morgan said.

After hitting Quapaw, the tornado moved northward into Kansas and struck Baxter Springs, a city of about 4,200 residents about 5 miles away. Cherokee County, Kan., sheriff's dispatcher Josh Harvey said the tornado that hit Baxter Springs injured several people and caused extensive damage, but that no deaths had been reported. He said first responders were going from house to house checking on residents' wellbeing.

Tornadoes also touched down Sunday in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Tornado warnings, which indicate the greatest threat of a strike, were also in effect for parts of southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas as of 9 p.m. CDT.

One of Sunday's twisters touched down northwest of Joplin, Mo., where a massive tornado in May 2011 killed 161 people, injured many others and leveled a large swath of the city. Sunday's twister didn't hit Joplin.

The first reported tornado Sunday touched down in a rural area in central in Nebraska. The weather service said it remained on the ground for only a short time, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

Forecasters warned that areas that weren't hit by tornadoes were still at risk of damage from hail and powerful straight-line winds. Forecasters warned of hail stones as big as baseballs and wind gusts that could reach hurricane-force — 75 mph or higher.

Gusts of up to 60 mph were registered during a storm that hit southeastern Iowa on Sunday that damaged several buildings, including a barn that injured someone when it was blown over.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, a strong line of storms moved through west-central Missouri, bringing winds that reached 70 mph hour near Chillicothe, Mo., that toppled some trees.

The Missouri Highway Patrol also reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No one was injured. The weather service received a report from Plattsburg, Mo., where an anemometer measured 58 mph before it blew away. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

Severe thunderstorm watches covered portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri through Sunday night. The primary threats were damaging wind gusts and large hail.

To the southeast, northern Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing for severe storms along with the possibility of flash flooding. The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show on Sunday. The National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see rain and flash flooding, while central and northern Georgia could see storms and heavy rain.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Meanwhile, runners in Oklahoma City took shelter early Sunday as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.

Update posted at 11:16 p.m.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — A state official says the death toll from a tornado that tore through central Arkansas has grown to four people.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said Sunday night that three of the deaths were in Pulaski County and the fourth was in White County.

A separate tornado from the same storm system moving through the central and southern United States on Sunday killed one person in northeastern Oklahoma.

Update posted at 10:08 p.m.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — A state official says a massive tornado that passed through or near several northern suburbs of Little Rock killed at least one person.

Brandon Morris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, says that White County officials reported to the state that at least one person was killed by the tornado as it passed through their county.

The tornado was one of several to touch down Sunday as a strong storm system moved through the central and southern U.S.

Authorities in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, say a twister that struck the town of Quapaw on Sunday only killed one person, not the two they earlier reported. Sheriff's dispatcher Kelli Soechs declined to explain the discrepancy.

That tornado injured six people in Quapaw and destroyed homes in Baxter Springs, Kan.

Posted at 9:22 p.m., this version updates and consolidates previous versions.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that carved path of destruction through the northern Little Rock suburbs and another twister that killed two people in Oklahoma and injured others in Kansas.

Video

KARK-TV live stream from Little Rock, Arkansas


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Live stream from KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Arkansas tornado touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock at around 7 p.m. and moved northeastward for at least 30 miles, the National Weather Service reported. The tornado missed the state capital, but it passed through or near several of its northern suburbs, including the town of Mayflower, where it destroyed several homes and businesses. Authorities issued tornado emergencies for the nearby communities of Maumelle, Morgan, Saltillo and Vilonia.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the Arkansas tornado, but it reportedly grew to be a half-mile wide and caused extensive property damage. Television footage showed buildings that had been turned to rubble and trees that had been stripped bare of their leaves and smaller branches.

That twister was one of several that touched down Sunday as a large storm system moved through a large swath of the Plains, Midwest and South.

Less than two hours before the Arkansas tornado struck, a twister hit the small northeastern Oklahoma community of Quapaw, killing two people, Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Colleen Thompson said.

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Storm Updates on Twitter


Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has about 900 residents, was heavily damaged by the tornado.

"Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department," Morgan said.

Six people were treated for tornado-related injuries at Baptist Regional Health Center in Miami, Okla., said hospital spokeswoman Kristie Wallace. Five of the six were treated and released, and the sixth, who was in fair condition with a broken bone, was kept overnight, she said.

After hitting Quapaw, the tornado moved northward into Kansas and struck Baxter Springs, a city of about 4,200 residents about 5 miles away. Cherokee County, Kan., sheriff's dispatcher Josh Harvey said the tornado that hit Baxter Springs injured several people and caused extensive damage, but that no deaths had been reported. He said first responders were going from house to house checking on residents' wellbeing.

Tornadoes also touched down Sunday in other states Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Tornado warnings, which indicate the greatest threat of a strike, were also in effect for parts of southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas as of 9 p.m. CDT.

One of Sunday's twisters touched down northwest of Joplin, Mo., where a massive tornado in May 2011 killed 161 people, injured many others and leveled a large swath of the city. Sunday's twister didn't hit Joplin.

The first reported tornado Sunday touched down in a rural area in central in Nebraska. The weather service said it remained on the ground for only a short time, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

Forecasters warned that areas that weren't hit by tornadoes were still at risk of damage from hail and powerful straight-line winds. Forecasters warned of hail stones as big as baseballs and wind gusts that could reach hurricane-force — 75 mph or higher.

Gusts of up to 60 mph were registered during a story that hit southeastern Iowa on Sunday that damaged several buildings, including a barn that injured someone when it was blown over.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, a strong line of storms moved through west-central Missouri, bringing winds that reached 70 mph hour near Chillicothe, Mo., that toppled some trees.

The Missouri Highway Patrol also reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No one was injured. The weather service received a report from Plattsburg, Mo., where an anemometer measured 58 mph before it blew away. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

Severe thunderstorm watches covered portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri through Sunday night. The primary threats were damaging wind gusts and large hail.

To the southeast, northern Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing for severe storms along with the possibility of flash flooding. The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show on Sunday. The National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see rain and flash flooding, while central and northern Georgia could see storms and heavy rain.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Meanwhile, runners in Oklahoma City took shelter early Sunday as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.


Talley reported from Oklahoma City.

Links:

KARK-TV live stream covering tornadoes in Arkansas

Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network (two-way radio)

Arkansas State Police two-way radio

Weather Channel stream

Chaser TV streams

Mid-Missouri weather:

Forecast, radar, advisories

Update posted at 9:12 p.m.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas highway officials say Interstate 40 is shut down in Faulkner County due to debris from a suspected tornado that crossed the roadway.

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department says traffic on eastbound and westbound Interstate 40 is closed in Faulkner County because of storm damage in Mayflower. The closure Sunday night is from mile marker 134 to mile marker 138.

Drivers are being asked to avoid the area. Images from television news showed overturned tractor-trailers and debris along the interstate.

The National Weather Service says a spotter reported seeing a tornado cross the interstate Sunday night as powerful storms hit parts of central Arkansas.

Nearly 13,000 homes and businesses are without electricity after severe storms pummeled parts of Arkansas.

Entergy Arkansas reported just under 13,000 outages Sunday night after storms swept through central Arkansas. More than half of the outages were reported in Faulkner County, where a suspected tornado hit Mayflower and Vilonia.

The utility reported more than 7,000 outages in Faulkner County, about 2,200 outages in Pulaski County and 1,400 outages in Pope County, with scattered outages reported elsewhere in Arkansas.

Entergy Arkansas says crews are prepared to restore electricity as quickly as possible. The utility urged residents to avoid downed power lines.

Update posted at 8:44 p.m.

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Officials in the southeast Kansas town of Baxter Springs report several people injured by a tornado that also caused extensive property damage.

Cherokee County sheriff's dispatcher Josh Harvey says no deaths have been reported. First responders from multiple agencies were going to house to house assessing damage and looking for those injured by the tornado that struck shortly after 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Baxter Springs has about 4,200 residents. It's located six miles north of Quapaw, Okla., where officials said the same tornado left two people dead.

Authorities were turning people away from Baxter Springs on Sunday evening.

About 75 miles north, Linn County emergency manager Douglas Barlet said some barns and outbuildings were destroyed but no one was injured when at least one tornado struck late Sunday afternoon near the Missouri border.

Update posted at 8 p.m.

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Tornadoes hit Arkansas

Broadcast and social media reports indicate a tornado hit Mayflower, Arkansas, and nearby areas on Sunday evening.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — A tornado swept through rural areas west and north of Little Rock as part of a severe weather outbreak through the central United States.

Television video showed damaged vehicles along a road north of the city Sunday, while another shot showed trees stripped of their leaves and small limbs along Interstate 40 between the suburban communities of Maumelle and Mayflower.

Forecasters issued tornado emergencies for Maumelle, Morgan, Saltillo and Vilonia after storm spotters confirmed a twister on the ground. Traffic was at a standstill on Interstate 40 between Conway and Little Rock.

The storm formed about 10 miles west of Little Rock and crossed the Arkansas River northwest of the city. Forecasters warned it was still on the ground after traveling 30 miles.

Earlier coverage, posted at 7:10 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A powerful storm front rumbled through parts of the Plains, Midwest and South on Sunday, spawning deadly tornadoes and heavy hail and rain, and damaging or destroying structures in several states.

A tornado killed two people in Quapaw, a small community in northeastern Oklahoma, near its borders with Kansas and Missouri, Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Colleen Thompson said. She said the twister hit the city at around 5:30 p.m. and that the extent of the damage was still unknown.

Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said agency staff members were headed to the Quapaw area to assess the damage. She said a local official reported that Quapaw's fire station was heavily damaged.

"We're hearing that there's quite a bit of damage to the north side of town," Cain said.

Tornado warnings, which indicate the greatest threat of a strike, were in effect for parts of northwest Mississippi and western Missouri as of 6 p.m. CDT. In addition to the tornado strike in Oklahoma, twisters also had reportedly touched down Sunday in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

A funnel cloud touched down northwest of Joplin, Mo., where a massive tornado in May 2011 killed 161 people, injured many others and leveled a large swath of the city. Sunday's twister wasn't expected to hit Joplin, the weather service reported.

A tornado reportedly caused damage in or near Baxter Springs, Kan., which is in the state's southeast corner near its borders with Oklahoma to the south and Missouri to the east.

Central Arkansas, including the Little Rock area, was a high risk of severe storms later Sunday, reported the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

Forecasters also asked people to be alert Sunday for possible tornadoes in a wide swath of the Midwest and south, stretching from Omaha, Neb., south to Texas and east to northern Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The greatest risk for a few intense tornadoes will exist across much of Arkansas perhaps into western and central Missouri," a weather service advisory said.

The first reported tornado from the storm system touched down Sunday afternoon in a rural area in central in Nebraska. The weather service said it remained on the ground for only a short time, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

Tornado watches — which means twisters could develop but aren't an immediate threat — were in effect for states as far west as New Mexico and as far east as Tennessee, and the system produced storms that were moving through the region in waves. Watches were also issued for Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.

Areas that don't get tornadoes could still get buffeted by hail and powerful straight-line winds. Forecasters warned of hail stones as big as baseballs and wind gusts that could reach hurricane-force — 75 mph or higher.

Gusts of up to 60 mph were registered during a story that hit southeastern Iowa on Sunday that damaged several buildings, including a barn that injured someone when it was blown over.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, a strong line of storms moved through west-central Missouri, bringing winds that reached 70 mph hour near Chillicothe, Mo., that toppled some trees.

The Missouri Highway Patrol also reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No one was injured. The weather service received a report from Plattsburg, Mo., where an anemometer measured 58 mph before it blew away. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

Severe thunderstorm watches covered portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri through Sunday night. The primary threats were damaging wind gusts and large hail.

To the southeast, northern Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing for severe storms along with the possibility of flash flooding. The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show on Sunday. The National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see rain and flash flooding, while central and northern Georgia could see storms and heavy rain.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Meanwhile, runners in Oklahoma City took shelter early Sunday as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.

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