MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 27, 2014

Tornado kills two across region

MAYFLOWER, Ark. — A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that killed at least one person as it carved through Little Rock’s northern suburbs and another that killed a person 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.

Officials reported that the tornado killed at least one person in White County, said Brandon Morris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

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.

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.

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