At Least 16 Dead After Tornadoes Devastate Central U.S. (Pictures)

At Least 16 Dead After Tornadoes Cause Devastation Across Central States As Forecasters Warn Another Hundred Twisters Could Hit The Area This Week – Daily Mail

At least 16 people have died after a powerful storm system spawning several tornadoes tore through the central and southern states last night with experts warning that another hundred are set to hit the central states this week at the start of tornado season.

Winds ripped houses off their foundations and flipped cars on top of the rubble in the small town of Vilonia in central Arkansas’ Faulkner county, one of the worst-hit communities.

Early this morning Arkansas Department of Emergency Management announced the death toll stating the deadly weather had killed seven people in Faulkner County, five people in Pulaski County and one person in White County.

Tornado watches – which means twisters could develop but are not an immediate threat – are 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, Texas and Louisiana. Quapaw was heavily damaged. ‘Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department,’ Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Morgan said.

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The tornado was the largest of several formed by a powerful storm system that rumbled through the central and southern U.S.

It touched down last night about 10 miles west of Little Rock at about 7 p.m., then carved a 80-mile path of destruction as it passed through or near several suburbs north of Arkansas’ capital city. It grew to be a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for much of that route, authorities said.

Vilonia mayor James Firestone told CNN the tornado was much stronger than the 2011 tornado and had caused a lot more damage.

He confirmed that there had been ‘some casualties’, but said it was too early to say how many.

The Arkansas twister shredded cars, trucks and 18-wheelers stuck along Interstate 40 north of Little Rock. It was shut down as authorities removed debris from the highway after the tornado struck Mayflower, said Arkansas State Patrol spokesman Bill Sadler. Mayflower is roughly 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Television footage showed buildings that had been turned to rubble and trees that had been stripped bare of their leaves and smaller branches.

There are reports that the new Vilonia Intermediate School which was only supposed to open in the fall has been destroyed.

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The National Weather Service in North Little Rock said it was virtually certain that the Mayflower and Vilonia storm would be rated as the nation’s strongest twister to date this year.

‘It has the potential to be EF3 or greater,’ said meteorologist Jeff Hood. EF3 storms have winds greater than 136 mph.

‘Based on some of the footage we’ve seen from Mayflower and where it crossed Interstate 40, things were wrecked in a very significant way.’

From communities west of Little Rock to others well north of the capital, emergency workers and volunteers were going door-to-door checking for victims.

‘It turned pitch black,’ said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents’ home in Mayflower when the storm arrived. ‘I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and … all hell broke loose.’

‘My parents’ home, it’s gone completely,’ he said.

Among the ruins was a new $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall.

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Becky Naylor, of Mayflower, said she and her family went to their storm cellar after hearing that tornado debris was falling in nearby Morgan. Naylor, 57, said there were between 20 and 22 people in the cellar and they were ‘packed like sardines.’

‘Everyone is welcome to come into it,’ she said. ‘In fact, people were pulling off the highways and were just running in.’
She said the men held the cellar doors shut while the tornado’s winds tried to rip them open.

‘It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound,’ she said. ‘Trees were really bending and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That’s before we shut the door and we’ve only shut the door to the storm cellar two times.’

The other time was during the 2011 storm.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management raised the Arkansas death toll to 13 early Monday – seven in Faulkner County, five in Pulaski County and one in White County.

The White House issued a statement in which President Barack Obama promised that the federal government would help in the recovery and praised the heroic efforts of first-responders and neighbors.

‘Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes,’ Obama said.

Storm ratings for Sunday’s twisters were not immediately available. Before Sunday, the country had not had a tornado rated EF3 or higher since Nov. 17, streak of 160 days, the fourth-longest on record.

This also would be the latest date for a storm rated EF3 or higher. The previous latest big storm for a year was March 31, 2002.

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

The first reported tornado on 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.

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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 on 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.

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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.

Prior to this weekend, the country had been experiencing the slowest start to tornado season on record (with no fatalities), likely due to the polar vortex during the winter.

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